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Kirkland residents oppose banning plastic bags, study reveals

Shaun Hanning stands outside of the Parkplace QFC in Kirkland on Monday. He says he is opposed to the city of Kirkland banning plastic shopping bags.  - Carrie Rodriguez/Kirkland Reporter
Shaun Hanning stands outside of the Parkplace QFC in Kirkland on Monday. He says he is opposed to the city of Kirkland banning plastic shopping bags.
— image credit: Carrie Rodriguez/Kirkland Reporter

Kirkland residents have spoken: Leave plastic bags alone.

During a recent phone survey from the city of Kirkland, 69 percent of 407 residents opposed the ban of plastic shopping bags, while 90 percent favored encouraging citizens to voluntarily reduce their bag use instead.

From May 21-23, employees from Elway Research, Inc. – the same research firm that led the Seattle plastic bag survey – called adult residents at random with a 16 question recycling survey.

Of the 67 percent who opposed charging a fee for plastic bags, 67 percent also said they’d be willing to pay something, while 33 percent said they would not pay anything, an option not offered in the questionnaire.

“I hate going to Seattle and you have to pay 15 cents [for paper bags],” said Shaun Hanning, who grasped a plastic bag on Monday following a shopping trip at the Parkplace QFC in Kirkland. “I’d be pretty sad if they took them away, but at the same time it’s bad for the environment. Maybe they should make one that, like, dissolves in the water.”

In March, the Kirkland City Council directed city staff to hold a complete study on whether Kirkland should or should not be a candidate for taking action on either banning or charging for plastic bags.

Deputy Mayor Doreen Marchione requested the study to the Public Works and Parks and Human Services Committee at a March 19 council meeting after she and Councilwoman Amy Walen discussed the idea.

“We had some people in the community who have asked us to look at it,” Walen said. “During my time in office, somebody probably mentions it every couple of months. People look to us for leadership in environmental issues.”

Prior to learning the survey results, Walen said the city would most likely be looking at a fee or at the option of requiring retailers to utilize on-site plastic bag recycling.

Residents supported measures aimed at stores for reducing plastic bag pollution – 85 percent thought stores should be required to have plastic bag recycling bins.

John MacGillivray, the Solid Waste Program’s lead with Public Works, who is heading the plastic bag study, admitted he’s a little surprised from the results of the survey. However, he noted the phone survey is only a part of the research he and his staff are planning to do.

The online business survey results were unavailable before the Reporter’s deadline.

“[The survey results] will play a role,” MacGillivray said. “This is one piece of the report. We’re going to consider the environmental, economic and health impacts. But it will have some influence. It’s one more thing for the council members to look at.”

Part of the study is to consider how the money would be used if fees were imposed on plastic bags, though it is still too early to understand where the money would go, said MacGillivray.

But 21 percent of the surveyed residents said it should pay for city promotion of waste prevention and recycling programs, while 24 percent continued to voice a charge should not be enforced at all, an option not offered on the questionnaire.

With hopes to deliver a staff recommendation to the council by early fall, MacGillivray said the city will be interviewing officials and doing case studies on other Northwest cities such as Seattle, Edmonds, Bellingham and Issaquah, which have enacted restrictions on plastic bags.

MacGillivray will also seek input from key stakeholders ranging from local grocers associations to the American Chemistry Council, along with major grocery stores.

PCC Natural Markets spokeswoman Diana Chapman said the organic grocery store discontinued plastic bags in 2007 because “single use plastic bags are not in line with [PCC’s] objective.”

“Even though paper bags cost three to four times more, we thought we could take the hit,” Chapman said. “As soon as we announced it, one by one, jurisdictions followed. We would love for Kirkland to jump on the bandwagon. It isn’t just a lifestyle, if you legislate it, people will follow.”

Chapman explained PCC shoppers are offered a rebate of 5 cents per reusable bag they bring but more than 92 percent of shoppers elect to donate the change to two nonprofits – PCC Food Bank program or Farmland Trust.

Kirkland residents who would like to weigh in on the issue of plastic bags can contact MacGillivray at (425) 587-3804 or jmacgillivray@kirklandwa.gov.


 

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