Edmonds has become the first city in the state to ban plastic grocery bags at retail stores.

Share story

Edmonds has become the first city in the state to ban reusable plastic grocery bags at retail stores.

The Edmonds City Council approved the ban Tuesday night 5-1, saying plastic bags hurt the environment and are easily replaced by reusable grocery bags.

Edmonds estimates its residents carry away some 8 million disposable bags from checkout counters each year.

“They’re really no more than a convenience we’ve gotten used to,” Councilmember Strom Peterson said before the meeting. “The risk to the environment outweighs the convenience.”

The ban won’t affect plastic bags for produce and bulk food, which will continue to be available to shoppers. Stores can still offer free paper bags.

Only Councilmember Ron Wambolt voted against the ban. He argued that citizens are voluntarily recycling and don’t need to be coerced.

“I don’t believe this is something government needs to get mixed up in,” Wambolt said.

In approving the ban, Edmonds joins cities and countries around the world that have banned or discouraged disposable plastic bags, including France, Germany, India and China. San Francisco banned them in 2007, and a similar ban goes into effect in Los Angeles next year.

In the Aug. 18 primary, Seattle voters will be asked to accept or reject a 20-cent charge for every new plastic or paper bag they carry out of supermarkets, drugstores and convenience stores. The ordinance was approved by the Seattle City Council, but opponents gathered enough signatures to place the measure on the primary ballot.

The American Chemistry Council, the lobbying arm of the plastics industry, has poured $1.4 million into the campaign to defeat the Seattle bag fee. Among its arguments are that 90 percent of consumers already reuse their plastic bags. It also says the measure could cost Seattle residents $15 million a year in fees.

Heather Trim, spokeswoman for People for Puget Sound, praised the Edmonds City Council, which she said stood up to the pressure tactics of the American Chemistry Council.”We’re extremely pleased that the City Council approved the ban,” Trim said. She said plastic bags break down in the marine environment and are ingested by marine mammals and also by fish that people may eat.

“This ban will lead the way for a healthier Puget Sound,” she said.

In February, the Edmonds City Council adopted a six-point plan for sustainability that included banning plastic grocery bags. The council considered a 20-cent fee similar to Seattle’s but decided, instead, on an outright ban.

The council Tuesday night also voted to postpone until 2010 placing before voters a property-tax increase to fund public safety and parks, including the senior center and Yost Pool, both of which were threatened with loss of funding this year because of budget cuts.

Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or lthompson@seattletimes.com