A citizen-proposed ordinance concerning a ban on the distribution of retail plastic carryout bags and the regulation of what kinds of alternative carryout bags could be offered by White Salmon’s retail establishments has been referred to the White Salmon City Council’s Community Development Committee for review and possible mark-up.

An organization calling itself Community Upcycle presented its White Salmon Checkout Bag Ordinance proposal to a full quorum of the City Council on July 17.

“The purpose of this ordinance is to reduce the negative impacts to the city and the environments from disposable bags,” the proposed legislation states in its pre-amble. “A ban on single-use plastic carryout bags combined with a nominal charge per recyclable paper checkout bag has been proven in numerous municipalities to be extremely effective, reducing disposable bags use by over 60% and encouraging people to bring their own bags when shopping.”

Twenty-nine Washington municipalities regulate the availability of plastic carryout bags, according to the sponsors of the proposed White Salmon ordinance. It is modeled “after these successful ordinances,” Anne Stringer of White Salmon told the council.

During a slide presentation, Stringer offered statistical and empirical reasons for why White Salmon residents should join the plastic bag ban movement.

She noted that in Washington residents use 270 plastic bags per year. She said the micro-plastics in carryout bags don’t break down in the environment.

“It’s a worldwide problem but it’s also local,” Stringer said.

Plastic carryout bags are a top offender for litter, are not recyclable locally, and are difficult to recycle and dispose of properly. Above all, Stringer noted, plastic carryout bags are “unnecessary.”

“Certainly our parents didn’t have them when we were growing up,” she went on. “There’s no reason why we can’t get by without them.”

One regulation in the proposed ordinance prohibit retail establishments in White Salmon from providing or making available “single-use plastic carryout bags.”

The proposal also sets requirements for paper bags that can be offered to customers at the point of sale.

The paper bags would have to comply with the definition of a “barrel size paper bag”; contain at least 40% post-consumer content and free of old-growth fiber; be 100% recyclable and acceptable for the City’s curbside recycling program; meet composting standards; and bear the name of the manufacture, the location (country) of the manufacturer, and the minimum percentage of post-consumer content.

Under the proposed ordinance, retail establishments can make brown barrel-size bags or larger available to customers at checkout. The proposed regulation states, “For Barrel Size Paper Bags or larger, retail establishments shall charge the customer a reasonable pass-through charge of not less than 10 cents per bag.”

The regulation would prohibit retailers from giving rebates to customers on any portion of the 10-cent or more bag charge; require retailers to indicate on a receipt the number of bags purchased. Also, the per bag charge would be a taxable retail sale.

Money collected from the bag charge would be retained by the retailer.

“It’s not a tax,” Stringer said. “You pay for the bags you need.”

The proposed ordinance exempts anyone using a food assistance program for the bag charge. Moreover, it does not attempt to regulate reusable carryout bags provided or sold by a retail establishment.

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