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Ban on plastic bags in Seattle? Group gearing up for one more try

When you go to the grocery store, it’s easy to forget to bring a reusable bag with you.

But the consequences of just taking the plastic bags that are doled out at most grocery chains is devastating to the health of local waters and wildlife. That’s the message from Environment Washington – a group that has issued a renewed call for a ban on plastic at checkout stands in Seattle.

Environment Washington has just published a 20-page report to back up their push for a plastic bag ban in Seattle. Katrina Rosen issued the group’s call to action. She says scientists have shown wildlife are literally choking to death on plastic.

“Last year, we saw the impact of this when a beached grey whale was found in West Seattle with 2o plastic bags in its stomach," Rosen says. "This is just wrong. Nothing that we use for a few minutes should end up in the belly of a whale. ”

Just as disposable plastic bags can tear up the inside of a sea creature and birds, they also get caught up in the machinery at recycling plants and break equipment. And unlike paper bags, they can’t be composted.

The political battle

If this sounds like dejavu – you’re right.  Three years ago, Seattle voters passed a plastic bag ban and then repealed it, because of the cost to consumers and grocery chains.

Bellingham, Edmonds and Portland have forged ahead. Now, Seattle is re-considering a ban modeled after the one in Bellingham, where single-use plastic bags are outlawed and paper ones cost 5 cents. 

The fee is kept by the grocery stores. It's what's known as a "pass-through" fee, and boosters insist it is not a tax but rather a reimbursement to cover the cost of implementation. 

According to the Seattle Times, The American Chemistry Council spent $1.4 million to defeat Seattle's plastic bag fee in 2008.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to