Posts Tagged ‘bag ordinance’

Protect and Serve

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

With automated traffic cameras now patrolling roadways, Bellingham has reassigned their police force to patrol grocery and convenience stores keeping their fair city safe from bag ordinance violators.

Force and Require

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

I just read in the Herald today that Haggen Food & Pharmacy is supporting a proposed ban on single use plastic bags in Bellingham and I have got to say how disappointed I am in their lack of leadership in this issue.

The ordinance would force retailers to stop offering plastic shopping bags to their customers within city limits, with a few possible exceptions. It also would require retailers to collect a 5-cent fee for every paper bag used by a customer.

I think it is pretty self evident that these single use bags are a nuisance, a blight on the countryside, and in their growing volume are an environmental problem, so the issue here is not the bags, but how we go about ridding or reducing their use.   The worst way I can imagine is to force and require consumers and retailer to follow a complicated, difficult to enforce, ordinance that is riddled with exceptions, yet that is exactly what is being proposed.

The seven-page ordinance proposed for Bellingham contains many wrinkles, among them:

  • a provision exempting low-income people from the nickel paper bag fee;
  • a provision allowing a store to get a temporary exemption from the law that would be granted by the mayor, if that store can demonstrate a special hardship;
  • a provision allowing retailers at the Bellingham Farmers Market to distribute paper bags to their customers without charging the nickel fee;
  • a provision authorizing the city to inspect retail establishments to check for compliance, and to seek court orders against violators;
  • paper bags provided to shoppers must be made from 40 percent recycled materials.

Read more: Bellingham Herald Politics

If this type of plastic bag is so bad that we need to address their use with any type of ban, why not make it a better ban and just ban their use without exception?   That’d be a simple, fair, more limited government solution, without “many wrinkles” that would leave the rest of the decision making in the hands of consumers and retailers.

But what I think is by far the best way to rid of us this type of plastic bag is for large outfits like Haggen Food & Pharmacy, who apparently oppose the use of these bags,  to provide leadership through example.  Haggen could drop these single use bags at anytime without City Ordinance, and probably boost their business in Bellingham.  This could potentially create a peer pressure situation that would have other retailers curtailing or reducing their own use to keep up with the Haggens.   I would certainly support Haggen if they went this route over the route of more government.

We don’t need more ordinances, we need leadership.

Why the Nickel?

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Bellingham City Council member Seth Fleetwood is bringing forth a proposed ordinance banning plastic shopping bags.   I haven’t read the actual proposal, but here’s a quick look from The News Tribune,

… a proposed city ordinance that would force retailers to stop offering plastic shopping bags to their customers within city limits. It also would require retailers to levy a 5-cent fee for every paper bag used by a customer.

The intent is to encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable bags to carry out their purchases, not just at the grocery but at other stores, too.

“This is what people did for 10,000 years,” Fleetwood said. “They brought their bag to the market.”

I guess that it if a City Council member is bringing this up, he must feel there is a real good chance that this will be accepted by the people of Bellingham.    But why would they?   Is it that they are anti-litter/pollution, believe it is a danger to wildlife, or is it that they are pro-government intrusion into private matters?

No doubt these plastic shopping bags are a nuisance, litter and a blight on the countryside.  The last time I drove through the open country around Denver I noted how many “shopping bag” trees they had growing natively along the freeways.   It’s ugly there and its getting that way around here.  If the City of Bellingham or even Whatcom County looked at the litter and environmental damage caused by plastic shopping bags and simply banned them altogether, I’d say go for it.  I’d even blog in support of it.  A simple ban would be a simple solution that would be simple to enforce and fair and equitable in it’s effects.

But this proposed ordinance is not a simple ban on plastic bags and if you read the whole article you’ll see that it really is very complex with all kinds of exceptions and most probably an enforcement non-starter.  The nickel rather than the complexity though, is the tip off that there is so much more than simple when it comes to this proposed ordinance.

The other part of the ordinance is about behavior control.   Not only would this ordinance ban us from using plastic bags, it also demands that stores charge us a fee/fine to get us to change our behavior.  And change us not just away from plastic bags, but also away from paper bags and into reusable bags.   If this were simply about plastic bags there would be no nickel in the ordinance.   And if paper bags can also be shown to be detriment like plastic shopping bags, then why the nickel?  Why not ban paper bags also?   Yes, part of this ordinance is bags, but another part is government control.

The simple ban would leave store owners and customers as the deciders in this brave new plastic-bagless region.    Customers might choose paper bags, reusable bags, or no bags.   Stores might choose to fully charge for paper, discount paper, no paper only reusable, or even go all Costco on us and offer either a bare cart or a big ol’ mayo box.

I can’t support what I see in this ordinance because it goes beyond protecting our environment and right into more control of our day to day lives.