Plastic bag ban takes effect in Issaquah

On May 28, 2012, the Issaquah city council voted 5-2 in favor of a ban on plastic bag use in retail checkout. A flyer sent out to businesses in the Issaquah community cites a desire, “to reduce pollution and waste associated with plastic bags, and encourage a shift to reusable carryout bags.” The ban, which was enacted the first of this last March, initially only effects businesses of 7,500 square feet, and will affect all other businesses come the first of March next year.

In full, the ban disallows non-reusable plastic bag use, urging stores to remind customers to buy and bring reusable bags, baskets, boxes, buckets and so on. However, stores are allowed plastic in various circumstances where contamination and moisture are severe issues, such as with dry cleaning, produce, and newspapers, while food banks and low-income services are outright exempt from the law. Additionally, stores are able to give away small paper bags without penalty, Though larger paper bags are to be readily available, all stores are required to charge a minimum of 5 cents per bag, as a reminder to the customer to use reusable containers.

It has been a little over a month since the ban went into place, and reaction is mixed. On immediately effected by the law were owners of stores in Seattle and other Washington  State cities affected by similarly worded laws. In fact, according to The Issaquah Press, “Front Street Market was the sole locally-owned operation that had to stop using plastic bags.” On the other side, there have been copious concerns raised by citizens and businesses alike that have been a direct result of the ban. There have been a few incidents of food poisoning resulting from reusable bags have been brought forward, often cited by critics of the new law. On the concerns of food poisoning, the Seattle Public Health Department has stated that bacteria will not thrive in a bag that is properly washed and maintained.