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Plastic Bags?

Plastic Bags?

What is the problem with plastic bags?plastic-bags-in-land-fill

Washingtonians use more than 2 billion single‐use plastic bags each year, and Seattle alone uses approximately 292 million plastic bags annually and only 13% are recycled. Too many plastic bags end up in Puget Sound where they do not biodegrade. Plastic bags break down into smaller and smaller pieces that remain hazardous as they are consumed by filter‐feeders,shellfish, fish, turtles, marine mammals, and birds. In 2010, a beached gray whale was found to have 20 plastic bags in its stomach!

Plastic bags cause serious environmental harm. Plastic bags break down into PCBs. PCB levels in Chinook salmon from Puget Sound are 3‐ to 5‐times higher than any other West Coast populations.

Hundreds of cities around the world have banned or taxed carryout plastic bags.

This is typically a ban just on the bags within bags into which other bags and other items are placed. As soon as you get home, they go right into the trash. In our case we stuff them into a Number 2 bag box, which we eventually take to Fred Meyers for recycling.

Unfortunately, Waste management will not take plastic bags in the recycling bin – something which should be changed. If Fred Meyer can recycle bags, Waste Management should be willing to do so as well.

Cities Which Have Banned Carryout Plastic Bags

Portland, Seattle, Edmonds, Mukilteo, San Francisco, and many other cities across the country and around the world.

Lynnwood should do the same.


  1. David Benson

    While you do make excellent points, the last thing I want to do at the grocery store is pay extra for paper or canvas bags; the food is already expensive enough. The Seattle plastic bag ban caught me by surprise the first time and I found myself at checkout with two full shopping carts having to decide between carrying everything out on my own or paying additional for paper or canvas bags. Fred Meyer wouldn’t budge on waiving the fee and didn’t care that I had been a long-time regular customer.

    After learning of the ban, I stopped buying my groceries in Seattle. While some of the stores do have other locations further north, many do not and therefore simply lose out on my monthly spend.

    For recycling to work, it needs to be available via the weekly trash pick-up (which you seem to agree with). I would welcome that change but I would not support an outright ban on plastic bags as that feels like another slippery slope. What do we ban next? Plastic bottles? Do we eventually charge an environmental impact tax for certain items at checkout?

    Public education about the risks associated with plastic bags and convenient access to recycling coupled with better waste management seems like a better way to begin addressing this issue; rather than banning them outright.

    David Benson

  2. James Robert Deal

    Dear Dave,

    You have made a convincing case that you feel inconvenienced by not having plastic bags available for carry out from grocery stores.

    On the other hand, the planet is inconvenienced by the single-use plastic bag trash we produce. They gum up recycle sorting machines, and so recycling them takes special effort. You have to bag the bags in other plastic bags and find a grocery store that will take them. You can put them in our Waste Management recycle bins but only if they are bagged in bags.

    These bags are made of oil. We should not encourage oil consumption.

    Third World countries follow our example. I have spent a lot of time in Central America, where there are plastic bags EVERYWHERE. They flow into rivers and seas and poison marine life.

    So I am sad that you feel inconvenienced. Why not make an effort to remember to bring your own bag. Why is that so much trouble?


  3. David Benson

    Hi James,

    I appreciate your thoughtful response, however, I did not intend to highlight personal inconvenience. While I do not believe banning of plastic bags is the solution, I also didn’t really care that the only option at checkout was paper or canvas-BYOB. However, I did care that I was being charged extra.

    Prior to the Seattle ban, all plastic/paper bags were free at checkout. According to a mid-level manager I spoke with at Fred Meyer who asked to remain anonymous, the direct costs of bags are built in to the product prices. With the ban in effect, consumers are now charged a fee per bag as a penalty for not bringing their own reusable bags. So the bag costs are still being built into the product prices, only now the stores don’t have to provide as many bags and they get to charge consumers a second time for the bags they do hand out because it’s the law — a law that the stores were very much in support of. Let me be completely clear: people who bring their own bags are still paying for bags indirectly via adjusted product prices and people who opt to buy paper bags are effectively being charged twice.

    Your reply surprised me when you pointed out that recycling them is problematic when your blog post quite clearly supports improved curb-side recycling service for these bags. Are you suggesting that recycling is no longer a viable option?

    In my original reply, I called for more public awareness and supported your desire for more convenient curb-side recycling. I believe we both have a similar respect for the environment but that we differ on this particular solution. I view a ban as a knee-jerk reaction that has little effect on the real problem while giving the stores another excuse to tack on additional fees under the banner of responsibility; when it’s really just another fleecing…

    You asked why is it so much trouble for me to bring my own bags. I ask, why should I? I like the bags and the stores are already charging me for them either directly or indirectly. Why can’t we have bags that are manufactured to be more environmentally friendly coupled with quality curb-side recycling program?

    Finally, if plastic bags are the scourge you portray then why aren’t the stores promoting recycling? I don’t see signs promoting the idea and it’s never mentioned at checkout. Why isn’t every store offering a recycle bin and printing a little notice on the receipts? Why aren’t they offering recycling points on club cards to incentivize customers? Maybe we should start there…

    David Benson

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