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RSS icon Comments on Disposable Bag Fee Public Hearing


This reminded me, did anyone else see that story just a bit ago about some Canadian kid that won the national science fair for developing a bag eating bacteria?

If a kid could do it...even to a MINOR extent...

Posted by harold | July 7, 2008 12:23 PM

My plastic bags don't kill sea creatures.

My plastic bags are used to make park benches in Fremont, cool hats I buy at PCC and REI, and purses and bags my friends make.

And my paper bread bags from Essential Bakery get reused as lunch bags, when I'm not just eating an apple for lunch.

Besides, if they do this, where will I get free garbage liners? Seriously, that's what I use - the plastic bags from when I forget to bring enough paper bags to reuse.

Now, if you want to do some good, try convincing Fred Meyer not to use a new plastic bag for every 2-3 items instead of real paper bags ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 7, 2008 12:24 PM

My only concern lies with the No Styrofoam Packaging for Restaurants aspect. I haven't heard anything about how the city will help the small Mom & Pop restaurants in my neighborhood defer the cost of switching to more enviro-friendly (potentially more expensive) packaging materials - is there provision for providing that assistance?

Other than that, bring on the bag ban. It took me very little time to completely wean myself off of plastic grocery bags, it's really not a difficult change to make.

Posted by Hernandez | July 7, 2008 12:27 PM

And the Nanny State rachets forward yet another notch.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | July 7, 2008 12:29 PM

Nanny state? Nanny state is the drug war. Nanny state is the patriot act. Nanny state is FISA. This is a regulation based on the undeniable fact that people are slobs and if one aspect of slobdom can be reduced, then fantastic. As you can tell, one's opinions of the nanny state is different then another's. Good for Seattle, I say.

Posted by P to the J | July 7, 2008 12:36 PM

@4: Zero sympathy.

Posted by Greg | July 7, 2008 12:38 PM

... people are slobs ... nothing like a little bit of self-hatred to drive someone to impose their will upon others.

Posted by Matt | July 7, 2008 12:40 PM

@4 please leave the state.

Posted by Lobot | July 7, 2008 12:41 PM

Nanny State is the government using its power to substitute its judgment for mine in trivial and private matters.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | July 7, 2008 12:41 PM

I'm all for this. People just won't change without a fire lit under their ass.

Stupid restrictions, ala the strip club 5-foot rule, die a natural death. Good ones, like the indoor smoking ban, would never, ever have been enacted on a volunteer basis.

Crack that whip, nanny.

Posted by JC | July 7, 2008 12:41 PM

Will in Seattle -- paper bags are twice as bad as plastic (in reference to your desire for Fred Meyer to use paper bags instead of plastic). They may not kill sea creatures as directly as plastic bags can, but both making and recycling paper bags creates twice the air and water pollution as making and recycling plastic bags. Choosing paper over plastic is actually WORSE for the environment, as counterintuitive as that might seem to some.

I don't think the 20 cent fee is going to make much of a difference one way or the other. Most people will just pay the fee over and over again -- what's another buck per shopping trip when you're already paying a fortune for the products in the store? If you really want to make people stop using paper/plastic bags, I think the only solution would be to ban them both outright. But that would never fly!

Posted by Jane | July 7, 2008 12:42 PM

@4 is correct. It's a nanny state led by enviro-marxists down the slippery slope of socialist depravity.

Posted by raindrop | July 7, 2008 12:42 PM

@4 re: Nanny State...

Covering the real costs of society is not Nanny State. I'll just echo what @5 said very well.

The "nanny state" mantra coming from the right over the past 30 years is delusional. Small government? HA! Less intrusive government? HA! Just look at the Nation-building activities of both Bush presidencies, the fight against the freedom to choose one's own life-partners, the war on drugs, etc.

The right is the home for the nanny state. Libertarian principles are best found within the democratic party, now.

Posted by Timothy | July 7, 2008 12:45 PM

Uh, you mention two significant things that the legislation does:
1. ban expanded foam containers
2. impose a fee on disposable bags

You state there is no downside to the legislation but only discuss item 2. This is a bit sloppy. Maybe sloppy like the bloody meats that will no longer nestle in their expanded foam packages at the grocery store? Or... what is the legislation?

Posted by umvue | July 7, 2008 12:46 PM

@9 - It's neither trivial nor private when you get to dump millions of plastic bags into our collective oceans.

Posted by DavidG | July 7, 2008 12:47 PM

I still get to dump bags into the Oceans.

I just have to pay an extra 20 cents to do so.

What the fuck does that have to do with anything? Freak.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | July 7, 2008 12:53 PM

The downside has already occurred: our government has wasted untold hours and dollars debating this idiotic, nanny-state legislation.

Forest for the trees, people....

Posted by A Non Imus | July 7, 2008 12:53 PM

@2: Enough with the the self-righteousness. What you're talking about is downcycling, or reusing plastic bags as something that can never be recycled. So, OK, you won't kill marine animals, but you aren't really solving the problem so much as pushing it forward a bit. The plastic stuff your bags make is still going to end its life in a landfill.

Posted by ECB | July 7, 2008 1:00 PM

it's ok, we can just build more WALL-E robots to clean up the trash

Posted by bobcat | July 7, 2008 1:05 PM

If the grocery stores were smart they'd offer some nice $5 bags and some nice $15 bags and some nice $25 bags. I find their vinyl-y 99 cent bags to be crap, & I don't want to advertise Safeway thank you very much.

I've been using a greenish cotton-y "briefcase" type of bag and like that much better. Some folks might like Totes type bags, or backpacks that bundle up into a tiny bundle. MAke a profit, corporations.

Meanwhile Safeway is giving asay FREE GASOLINE if you buy enough stuff.

Bad corporate citizen, Safeway!

Instead give away FREE permanent bags or bus passes.

All "free gas" deals should be forbidden.

Go Nanny State, it's called democracy. It's better than being in the play pen with a bunch of slobs who leave their garbagey plastic bags to fill up the landfills and kill the sealife.

Posted by PC | July 7, 2008 1:09 PM

If someone will make a T-shirt of a pit bull riding a fixie while carrying a plastic bag, I'll buy a few for the Stranger staff. Caption? "World's Deadliest" something? "Fatal Contraption"? "Fatal Conniption"? I dunno. I'm just spitballing here.

Posted by MvB | July 7, 2008 1:10 PM

ECB saying "enough with the self-righteousness"? Wow, that's completely off of the scale on the old irony-o-meter (not to mention the "lack of self awareness" metric)

Posted by Mr. X | July 7, 2008 1:10 PM

@21: It needs a youth pastor thrown in.

Posted by JC | July 7, 2008 1:13 PM

@9: Your garbage is neither private or trivial.

Posted by Original Monique | July 7, 2008 1:20 PM

According to your unreferenced statistics, Seattle, being 0.1% of the US population, uses 3.6% of the nationís bags. It takes 5.04 gallons of oil to make a bag. At todayís prices, that $17.40 of oil per bag.

am I missing something?

your source please?

Posted by chet | July 7, 2008 1:21 PM

...the market takes away. I go to a place that gives you 5 cents for using a cloth type bag. This possible future fee will take 20 cents when you use plastic.

Posted by theMarketgives | July 7, 2008 1:21 PM

Given the effects of obesity on the U.S. health care system, wouldn't it be socially responsible for the City to mandate an hour of obligatory fitness training for its citizens every morning, as well?

Posted by NapoleonXIV | July 7, 2008 1:25 PM


The politicians are using their political capital on useless things again. CFLs and plastic bags are easy targets, but they are of no significance whatsoever. The real problems that are orders of magnitude more severe are conveniently ignored. We must be a green city if we use CFLs and recyclable bags, right? Ignore the fact that the average citizen in Seattle releases ten tonnes of CO2 per year (60 lbs/day) by their existence. Driving to Tacoma and back will cause more environmental damage than all of the plastic bags you use in a year.

A year from now we'll hear how Seattle is a green city that is "making a difference." What a load of shit. This, like the attempted beach bonfire ban, is nothing more than a PR stunt to make Seattle look green without doing anything hard.

Wake me up when a politician with some balls decides to target a legitimate environmental concern. You know, things like greenhouse gas emissions, noxious gas emissions, fuel leaks, energy use (not the CFL bullshit but real things like home insulation, refrigerator and stove sizes, and hot water heater sizes), etc. Once all of those problems are taken care of then I'll have no problem with them attacking the trivial issues like plastic bags.

Posted by bzishi | July 7, 2008 1:28 PM

@16 wins

@20 remains a shithead

Posted by Not Will in Seattle | July 7, 2008 1:28 PM


No, the Nanny State is the government trying to protect you from yourself. The Nanny State rears its ugly head in the War on Drugs, seatbelt legislation, smoking bans, attempts to impose extra taxes on junk food. If you oppose charging a fee for grocery bags, fine, but don't assign an incorrect term to it. Make up a new one, if you must.

Posted by keshmeshi | July 7, 2008 1:29 PM

As a City, we really ought to do something about those poor Circus Animals, as well....

Posted by NapoleonXIV | July 7, 2008 1:31 PM

I've bloviated enough on this in previous comments, but once more for the hell of it. On a practical level, ECB is spot on: very little downside. I can certainly afford the bag tax, but since I'm a cheapskate I'll gladly bring my own bags to the store and help reduce the plastic bag island in the Pacific to a manageable size-- maybe that of Rhode Island.

But can we please, please elect some politicians whose response to any meaningful challenge won't be just another tax. It's lazy. A step in the right direction maybe, but still lazy.

Also @20-- you're saying if I buy enough crap at Safeway, I can earn a Metro pass? Pinch me, that's just too good to be true.

Posted by Joe M | July 7, 2008 1:34 PM

@25: "It takes 5.04 gallons of oil to make a bag."

Try 0.00504 gallons per bag, dude. Assuming the original figures were correct, which is not an assumption I'd make myself.

Posted by Jane | July 7, 2008 1:40 PM


Well said.


Stupid government action, like warrantless wiretapping, detention without trials, and torture will "die a natural death"? I like the way you think--it absolves the voting citizen of any responsibility for the actions of his government.

More generally, what's wrong with imposing the true cost of consumption on bags (and gas, and power, and so forth) and letting consumers decide? If bags cost the environment $0.20 more per bag than the market imposes as the cost of manufacturing (pollution being an externality that does not factor into that cost), it's reasonable to tax those bags at $0.20.

What is not reasonable is to tell businesses that they can't pay the $0.20 per bag themselves and give the bags to consumers for free, if that's how they decide their business best runs. Similarly, it's not reasonable to tell businesses they cannot use Styrofoam products if want to and if they are willing to pay the true cost of consumption for them.

Should consumers who are responsible for polluting waterways and killing seals bear the cost of cleaning up and preventing their messes? Absolutely.

But if they're willing to pay that cost, why should they be prevented from doing so?

Posted by Dan | July 7, 2008 1:42 PM

I get $38 parking tickets for anything and everything (and the City almost never has a sign within 100 feet). Why in God's name is there a hearing about 20 cents? Maybe we need a vote on this? Should we amend the state consitution? How about paying one of the mayor's friends $2 million for an advertising campaign?

Posted by left coast | July 7, 2008 1:45 PM

@33 my bad! I would still like her references.

wait, how did you know I was a dude, dude?

Posted by chet | July 7, 2008 1:46 PM

It would be great if the Council stopped wasting people's time. That is a non-renewablle resource.
There is obviously enough support for the idea to put it on the agenda and sketch out a plan. Why not spare us all the charade of public input.
They could even use the time saved to tackle any of Seattle's long standing problems such as crime, housing, traffic etc.

Posted by Zander | July 7, 2008 1:59 PM

Or they could just outlaw bags altogether and teach people how to juggle.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | July 7, 2008 2:02 PM

and .0036 /= 3.6 %

your percentage math needs some work

Posted by @ 36 | July 7, 2008 2:12 PM

Can we add disposable diapers to the list of things banned.

Living near the zoo, I am so tired of the parents that think disposable means leave the little plastic bundle of joy full of shit on the curb by their car before they go home. Some even go as far as tossing it under their parked car, as if they are sweeping something under a rug. Every weekend there are at least 3 or 4 of these used diaper bundles left near where I live. Nobody should have to deal with someone else's baby shit even if it arrives in a nice neat little bundle waiting to explode from either the heat or the tire of a passing car.

And on the environment front, you can't tell me that little padded plastic bags of shit are good for a landfill.

Posted by Sad Comment | July 7, 2008 2:15 PM

An argument against waste is not the same thing as a workable plan to move us toward greater environmental sustainability.

Posted by Trevor | July 7, 2008 2:37 PM

I bust a gut while reading ECB @18.

OH. MY. GOD. The irony. "Enough with the the self-righteousness." HAHAHAHAHAHA.


This is after the "Won't somebody think of the Sea Creatures?!" plea.

Posted by TheMisanthrope | July 7, 2008 2:50 PM

@4 - we have hereby revoked your citizenship - please move to Iraq.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 7, 2008 2:53 PM

@ 3. There's talk of a purchasing coop for small businesses to help offset the costs of the initial switch from Styrofoam packaging. It will make the alternatives cheaper than they would be if a small business had to purchase them on their own.

Posted by FFS | July 7, 2008 2:58 PM

Just because we don't want children sticking their heads in plastic bags doesn't mean you can't, Will.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | July 7, 2008 3:08 PM

@34: Referendums like the 4-foot rule "died a natural death" because they were held up to public scrutiny and people decided against it. You don't like this one? Go to City Hall tomorrow.

And really, don't compare a public hearing on a 20 cent charge on plastic bags to "warrantless wiretapping, detention without trials, and torture." You make some reasonable points, but let's keep this in the proper perspective.

Posted by JC | July 7, 2008 3:10 PM


So the torture comparison might've been a reach, but what's the Internet for if not hyperbole and insult?

In all seriousness, though, doesn't your 4-foot-rule example prove my point? I was arguing against the notion that bad laws will die a natural death without public scrutiny.

The bag rule should be scrutinized. It may be a reasonable law, but I think you'd agree we should have public discussion of it.

On some level, I real ECB's post as a claim that one cannot possibly disagree with this. That doesn't mean she disagrees with the notion of public discussion of it, but there's some implication to that effect. "As far as I can tell, there's no downside," she writes.

I think this does an unfair service to the opposing view, even if that view is wrong.

Posted by Dan | July 7, 2008 3:14 PM

In re ECB's closing statement - yup, ECB, those elitists at Solid Ground (formerly FPA) just don't know what they're talking about when it comes to the FACT that this will be onerous for poor people. You know so much more than they do, after all.

And Dan @ 46, if you pulled every ECB post that did a disservice to opposing views (not to mention rebutting the argument she wishes they made instead of what they said/ignoring inconvenient facts/impugning the motives of those who disagree w/her/etc/etc/etc), there wouldn't be anything left on SLOG.

Posted by Mr. X | July 7, 2008 3:21 PM

Jane @11:

What are your references for paper bags being twice as bad ecologically as plastic ? I've never heard that before and I'm sceptical!

Posted by Sto | July 7, 2008 3:26 PM

this also provides income for homeless people who can sit outside the store and sell you plastic bags at a discount.

Posted by Zack | July 7, 2008 4:03 PM

i'd suggest a deposit approach. first, this makes it less potentially burdensome on the poor and it has the added benefit of having the bags be viewed with some monetary value, thus everytime somebody in need of spare change sees a plastic bag laying around they pick it up and return it for their deposit.

Think Oregon bottle bill. You don't see cans and bottles laying around in the streets like you do here.

Posted by Elvis | July 7, 2008 4:07 PM

I honestly think this should all have been dealt with by the mandatory recycling we're already required to do.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | July 7, 2008 4:16 PM

@49 -- If you Google "plastic bags vs. paper bags," you'll find lots of references to support the argument that plastic bags produce far less solid waste and air/water pollution (both to make and to recycle) than paper. This blog won't let you post many URLs in comments, but here are two:

In short, both paper AND plastic bags suck. But if you refuse to use reusable bags and you're at least willing to recycle your plastic ones (which is so easy to do in Seattle -- just put all your bags in one bag and toss into your recycle bin!), plastic is arguably a better choice for the environment. There are arguments on the other side too (the one that makes the most sense to me is that plastic bags can't be made into more plastic bags, the way paper bags can, so every plastic bag represents use (not reuse), particularly of oil).

Use cloth bags!!

Posted by Jane | July 7, 2008 4:17 PM

Sto raises the point, Jane @11 - I REUSE my paper bags over and over - so I end up using them LESS than plastic. Sometimes I donate a few that build up to make papier mache tho, but someone's got to build giant puppets ...

And, again, we're confusing three issues:

1. banning styrofoam take-out food containers - cool.

2. CHARGING poor people 20 cents per bag - rich people don't care or are far more likely to have fancy bags - which some of us who conserve USE over and over and use instead of buying fancy garbage can liners.

3. the cold harsh reality that the Gay Pride Parade and Seafair Parades caused more trash than we're talking about "saving" here.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 7, 2008 4:30 PM

and @59 for the win.

So, Jane, what mileage does your Hummer get?

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 7, 2008 4:33 PM

Plastic bags CAN be made (recycled) back into more plastic bags. But they usually aren't. They're sooo cheap to make, why bother? says the industry.

Most plastic bags are thrown away. The few plastic bags that are collected for "recycling" get mostly turned into plastic lumber. A few people have plastic lumber decks and a couple parks have benches and tables. Those decks, benches, and tables will eventually be buried in a landfill.

Will in Seattle:
Use a paper bag for your garbage. Empty that garbage into the garbage dumpster outside and then thrown the paper bag into your yard/food waste bin - no plastic needed and your paper composted.

Posted by hairyson | July 7, 2008 4:50 PM

Paper bags get wet and rip, hairyson.

Besides, I've already got a reused ice cream bucket for my food/coffee for the yard waste bin.

How about we put a 25 cent tax on people buying drinks at Starbucks instead - and all those McDonald's bags?

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 7, 2008 5:19 PM

I believe that was one of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's main complaints about the Communist state -- them telling him what kind of bag to use.

@5, FISA was a law passed/court created to rein in and oversee a secret surveillance state. That was 30 years ago. What's going on lately is like that, but, completely the opposite.

Posted by CP | July 7, 2008 5:19 PM

From the city's FAQ on the plastics ban:

Your study shows that banning EPS food containers and cups is actually worse for
the environment than doing nothing so why do it?

The study which was completed last year assumes that most short-term changes from
EPS products will be to other difficult-to-recycle, non-compostable plastics, so the
environmental impact may indeed be higher for a while. Thatís why Mayor Nickels and
Council President Conlin propose a complete conversion from those kinds of products to
compostable and recyclable replacements by July 1, 2010. More compostable products
are coming onto the market now and conversion may be much quicker expected.


Posted by umvue | July 7, 2008 5:22 PM

P.S. There will be bag!

Posted by CP | July 7, 2008 5:24 PM

Besides, I need those plastic bags to put over the heads of pit bulls that roam loose ...

Posted by Will in this is a joke Seattle | July 7, 2008 5:33 PM

@55 -- I'm sure you could've guessed this, Will, but I take the bus to go to/from work and I run all my errands (grocery store, etc.) on foot. Using reusable cloth bags! Disgusting, aren't I?

Ironically, I think we actually agree on this issue. I think this whole thing is stupid and that it's not going to make a difference at all (both in terms of changing people's behavior -- rich or poor, I might add -- and in terms of the environment).

Posted by Jane | July 7, 2008 7:57 PM

I am in China, where they've recently imposed a law charging for plastic bags in stores across the country. If China, who we like to demonize on environmental issues, can implement a common sense law like this, should it really be an issue in Seattle?

Posted by Mr Me | July 7, 2008 8:05 PM

Plastic bags I could sort of understand, but paper bags? How about disposable weekly newspapers? shouldn't there be a fee for them as well?

Posted by Epimetheus | July 7, 2008 8:55 PM

for more on Paper vs. Plastic...

Posted by ashley | July 8, 2008 4:52 PM

@38 -- They're using the plastic bag tax to finance juggling classes and circus animals for citizens? Awesome! Where do I sign up? I've always wanted to know how to juggle circus animals. Do you think they'll have a clown workshop too?

On the Bag Tax / No Styrofoam --- thank goodness god they're doing this. Total support here, and zero sympathy for whiners. Anyway, styrofoam is toxic to humans and leaches into your hot food and drink. Paperboard is much better. Although when we finally start using industrial hemp for paper, we'll reduce the toxins and bleaches in that stuff too.
Jesus we humans are dumb fuckers.

Yes I use plastic bags as trash liners & dogpoo pickup, but I'm quite confident we are resourceful people and will find perfectly functional alternatives. It's not like ALL plastic bags will suddenly disappear, after all.

Thanks for posting this Erica.

Posted by treacle | July 8, 2008 4:56 PM

A lot of people shopping in Seattle do not live there or close to downtown and therefore get in town by bus or rail. They would not be able to go to their car to get their recyclable bag. Nor should they be required to pay 20 cents more each time they buy something. But wait, here is an idea. In the U.S. Navy they conduct overboard drills and when the sailors jump in without life jackets, they are told to take off their pants, tie a knot at the end of each pant leg and then use the waist to scoop up some air and use the pants for a life jacket. So, using this idea, for those shoppers who forget their bag, then they could just take off their pants, tie a knot at the end of each leg, and voila! a bag. It would make shopping a whole lot more interesting.

Posted by Bob | July 11, 2008 2:42 PM

A lot of people visiting or working in Seattle normally park and ride a bus or train to get into town. They do not have access to their vehicle to get their recyclable bag, nor should they have to pay 20 cents extra each time they buy something. Prices are too high already. But wait, here is an idea. In the U.S. Navy, when they have overboard drills, the sailors are instructed to take off their pants, tie a knot at the end of each pant leg and then use the waist to scoop up some air to create a makeshift life preserver. We could use the same procedure for a makeshift (recyclable) shopping bag. Shoppers would just take off their pants, tie a know at the end of each pant leg and Voila! a shopping bag. It would make shopping in Seattle very interesting.

Posted by Bob | July 11, 2008 2:50 PM

A lot of people visiting or working in Seattle normally park and ride a bus or train to get into town. They do not have access to their vehicle to get their recyclable bag, nor should they have to pay 20 cents extra each time they buy something. Prices are too high already. But wait, here is an idea. In the U.S. Navy, when they have overboard drills, the sailors are instructed to take off their pants, tie a knot at the end of each pant leg and then use the waist to scoop up some air to create a makeshift life preserver. We could use the same procedure for a makeshift (recyclable) shopping bag. Shoppers would just take off their pants, tie a know at the end of each pant leg and Voila! a shopping bag. It would make shopping in Seattle very interesting.

Posted by Bob | July 11, 2008 2:50 PM

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