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Published: Monday, December 12, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

Mukilteo could decide Monday to ban plastic grocery bags

MUKILTEO - By Monday night, Mukilteo could follow Edmonds' lead and ban plastic grocery bags.
The City Council could vote on the plan at its meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. at City Hall, 11930 Cyrus Way. The public will have a chance to speak on the plan.
If approved, the ban would not take effect until Jan. 1, 2013.
The idea has been discussed for more than a year and came out of the City Council's subcommittee on sustainability. "The average big grocery store goes through a million bags a year," said Jennifer Gregerson, one of three City Council members on the panel.
Waiting a year to implement the ban would give retailers time to get used to the idea and for the city to promote use of reusable bags.
Edmonds adopted a similar approach, putting its ban into effect in August 2010, a year after it was approved by its City Council.
The city of Bellingham in July passed a similar ban to take effect in July 2012. Seattle voters in 2009 rejected a proposed measure to charge shoppers 20 cents for every plastic or paper bag. Now, Seattle city officials are discussing banning plastic bags and requiring a 5-cent charge for each paper bag, as is done in Bellingham.
The Mukilteo law is patterned largely after those in Edmonds and Bellingham, city officials said.
There are many exceptions to the proposed ban.
Bags for takeout food at restaurants, as well as the smaller bags for meat, bulk foods and vegetables at stores, and for newspapers, door hangers and pet waste are among those that would be allowed.
"It's focused on larger carry-out bags," Mukilteo planning director Heather McCartney said.
Mukilteo has only one full-size grocery store, QFC in Harbour Pointe. The law would apply to convenience stores as well.
There are some small differences between Mukilteo's ban and those in Edmonds and Bellingham. The proposed fine for violations is smaller than in Edmonds -- it's $50 regardless of the number of offenses, compared to $100 in Edmonds for the first offense and $250 for a second offense within two years. Like Edmonds and unlike Bellingham, Mukilteo will not require a charge for paper bags
Despite the exceptions to the types of bags allowed, the law will still make a difference, McCartney said.
It's estimated that every American household uses between 520 and 1,000 bags per year, McCartney said. Multiply that number by 8,000 households in Mukilteo, she said, and you get between 4.2 million and 8 million bags.
The national recycling rate for plastic bags is less than 5 percent, according to the city.
Plastic bags consume more resources and produce more waste than reusable bags, and cause more problems than paper bags because they require oil to produce, take years to break down and pose a hazard to marine life, according to city research on the issue.
Plastic bags take anywhere from 10 years to more than a century to disintegrate, according to various Web sources.
City officials have discussed the ban at several council meetings and have heard no opposition, Gregerson said.
The city plans to work with the Mukilteo Chamber of Commerce to promote the ban. Shannon McCarty, the chamber's executive director, has said she doesn't expect much opposition from businesses.
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.
Story tags » MukilteoPollutionWaste

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