Edmonds Council Votes for Plastic-Bag Ban

June 4, 2009

Edmonds could become the first city in the state to ban plastic bags.

The Edmonds City Council voted 4-2 Tuesday night to ban free, single-use plastic bags at all retail outlets in the city, pending an environmental review that could be done within the month. A final vote will be required before the measure becomes law.

"We like it that Edmonds can be one of the leaders in sustainability," said Councilmember Strom Peterson, a local businessman who urged passage of the ban.

Local environmental groups praised the action, saying it goes beyond even Seattle's planned 20-cent fee on non-reusable bags at grocery, convenience and drugstores.

Edmonds is known for its well-preserved downtown and its waterfront, which features a marine sanctuary.

"Clearly, they understand the link between plastic-bag pollution and the long-term threats to their retail and tourism destinations," said Heather Trimm of the People for Puget Sound, which supported the Edmonds ban.

In Seattle, Mayor Greg Nickels proposed the 20-cent bag fee, and the City Council approved it. The plastics industry collected enough signatures to put the fee to a citywide vote in the Aug. 18 primary.

A representative from the American Chemical Council spoke against the Edmonds ban at an earlier City Council hearing on the measure, Peterson said, but did not appear at Tuesday's hearing.

Two council members, D.J. Wilson and Ron Wambolt, opposed the ban, citing the interference by government into personal decision-making and the marginal impact one city could have on the problem.

Council member Dave Orvis, who holds a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering, said the science is clear that plastic bags harm the environment. He agreed that the Edmonds ban won't solve the problem, but said it was a good start. "Sometimes change requires baby steps," he said.

The city estimates that its 40,000 residents use 8 million plastic bags a year.