I'm not sure whether this will pass the City Council this year, but Seattle mayor Greg Nickels has proposed a 20 cent fee for all disposable bags (paper or plastic) at grocery, convenience and drug stores. If approved, the charge would go into effect on January 1st.
Retailers would keep five cents of the fee to cover the cost of implementing the charge and small businesses that gross less than $1 million a year can keep the entire fee. At this time, the fee would not apply to produce bags or other small bags. Apparently, Seattle residents go through 360 million disposable bags a year, or 600 bags per person.
Nickels also has proposed banning plastic and foam food containers. The proposed ban on foam containers used by the food service industry would include such items as plates, trays, "clamshells" and hot and cold beverage cups used at restaurants, delicatessens, fast food outlets and coffee shops, and meat trays and egg cartons used at grocery stores. The legislation would also require that by July 1, 2010, all food service businesses currently using disposable plastic or plastic-coated paper products to convert to packaging that is compostable or locally recyclable.
The two proposals are part of the city's "zero-waste" strategy to increase recycling and reduce trash. Although plastic bags aren't outright banned (like they are in San Francisco) it's likely that people will switch to reusable so they don't have to pay the fee. It's about time.
Which do you think is better? Charging a nominal fee or outright banning disposable bags?