Thurston County considers ban on plastic bags

Plastic Bag

Thurston County may soon be facing a ban on all single-use plastic bags. The cities of Olympia, Bucoda, and Tumwater have all recommended a ban on single-use plastic bags. Other cities are pending decision, have recommended a countywide vote on a plastic bag ban, or have recommended suppliers pay a small fee on bags. Once all cities have made their recommendations, they will go to the Thurston County Commissioners Office.

According to the Assistant Manager of South Puget Sound Community College’s Bookstore, Becky Malleck, the bookstore has switched to biodegradable bags this year. Malleck said the bookstore is offering biodegradable bags instead of the reusable woven bags in the store this year due to the high cost. Malleck said the bookstore purchases between 5,000 and 7,000 bags a year, and that all of the bags are usually used. Malleck said the biodegradable bags that the bookstore offers are very sturdy and can be reused.

Student Senate Vice President for Clubs & Organizations Geomarc Panelo said he supports a ban on plastic bags and feels it would be good for Olympia especially since many people in Olympia already support environmentally friendly practices.

Panelo said his household uses reusable bags and recycles, and it would be good to see others doing the same.

Other SPSCC students also try to remain environmentally friendly, such as student Fredrick Tuso. Tuso said he uses paper bags as often as possible and supports the use of reusable bags.

Student Jesse Hadaller said he reuses single-use plastic bags to line small trash cans in his home. Hadaller said he often carries his purchases out of the store unbagged, and feels a ban would be positive for the environment.

According to the report on the Plastic Bag Outreach Program by the Thurston County Solid Waste Advisory Committee, residents of Thurston County use roughly 90 million plastic shopping bags each year. According to the report, the high cost of proper disposal of plastic bags is a concern.

“Plastic bags are among the 10 largest components of litter by weight on Washington roadways,” stated the report.

Plastic bags also clog storm drains, and local government is responsible for litter cleanup and storm water management. “These are funded through residential solid waste rates and taxes so ultimately the public pays for this,” stated the report.

Although curbside recycling does not include plastic bags, residents still put them in. Plastic bags get caught in the screens of machinery that then have to be cut off. This adds up to 10,000 pounds of plastic added to landfills at a cost of $35,000 to $40,000 a month which is paid by taxes, according to the report.

The report discussed a survey of Thurston County Residents which showed 49 percent of respondents supporting a ban on single-use plastic bags, 26 percent said “No,” and 35 percent said, “Maybe-I need more information.” Of the 3,773 respondents, 3,552 lived in Thurston County.

Only 693 survey respondents said they always use reusable bags when they shop. A single reusable bag can replace 56 to 315 plastic bags, according to the report.

According to Loni Hanka, Thurston County Solid Waste employee, it is currently unknown how long it could be until the ban takes effect. Hanka said once each city makes their recommendations on the ban, those recommendations will go to the Board of County Commissioners. According to Hanka, the plastic bag ban could be county-wide or just in certain cities.

Hanka said, “Implementation will happen if and when the county commissioners decide to take action on this issue.”