Thursday, January 17, 2008

Curb Plastic Bags

Legislator seeks curb on plastic grocery bags
Shoreline's Chase cites waste, harm to environment

OLYMPIA -- Paper or plastic? That question could become passe under a measure being pushed by one lawmaker who says plastic grocery bags harm the environment and waste resources.

Rep. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, has sponsored a bill that would require grocery stores to provide bags made from recyclable paper, compostable plastic, reusable textile materials such as canvas, or reusable plastic that is at least 0.09 inches thick.
Grocery stores could be eligible for a tax credit under the measure but would face a $500 fine for not complying.

"It's an idea whose time has come," said Chase, who is pushing for several environmental measures this year, including one that would ban the sale of petroleum-based water bottles.
The bill has a public

Environmental groups say plastic bags waste valuable oil, release toxins when burned and contribute to global warming because of the energy required to produce them. They also say bags littering the oceans kill sea turtles and other marine animals that mistake them for food.
The Sierra Club's Sierra magazine estimates almost 100 billion plastic bags are thrown out each year and that only 5.2 percent of those are recovered for recycling.

Chase wants to follow the lead of such cities as San Francisco, which became the first in the nation last year to ban petroleum-based plastic bags in large grocery stores.

In France, supermarket chains have begun shying away from giving away plastic bags, and German stores must pay a recycling fee if they wish to offer them. Ireland's surcharge on bags imposed in 2003 has been credited with sharply reducing demand. China has also banned flimsy plastic shopping bags and forces stores to charge for others.

Some stores in the state already have embraced the idea.

PCC Natural Market, which has eight stores in King County and is opening one in Snohomish County this year, has eliminated all plastic bags from its stores.

"It has been overwhelmingly positive," said Diana Crane, spokeswoman for the certified organic natural food cooperative. "Our shoppers have embraced this."

But larger grocery stores likely will fight the measure.

"One of the concerns I have about the bill is that it only mandates groceries," said Joe Gilliam, president of Northwest Grocery Association, which represents stores including Safeway, Fred Meyer and QFC.

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