Businesses, Kirkland residents prepare for plastic bag ban

With the city’s plastic bag ban ordinance set to take effect next month, city officials have been reaching out to local businesses in preparation.

With the city’s plastic bag ban ordinance set to take effect next month, city officials have been reaching out to local businesses in preparation.

According to several city officials who spoke during the City Council’s Feb. 5 meeting, more than 200 businesses were approached during a year-long outreach campaign, along with residents who will be impacted. The outreach program had a $40,000 budget but only spent $28,000.

City officials stated that though some businesses complained about the ban, others, such as the larger retailers, said it’s something they’ve experienced in other cities with plastic bag bans such as Seattle, Issaquah, Bellingham, Shoreline and Mercer Island.

“Overall, we expected more feedback negatively than what we got,” city of Kirkland Recycling Programs Coordinator Jenna Higgins said. “For the most part businesses were really all understanding.”

Fred Meyer/QFC Spokesperson Melinda Merrill said that the company has had a process in place for several years on how to transition away from using plastic bags.

“We’ve all been through it before,” she said.

According to Merrill, the company made the transition on its own in several of its Portland stores prior to the city passing its ordinance banning plastic bags.

One of the businesses unenthusiastic about the ban is Paige Gifford, who owns Corner Comics in Totem Lake. Gifford said as a result of the ordinance she now has to order cheap paper bags, which are more expensive, but won’t be purchasing the larger bags that require her to charge customers because “that wouldn’t fly in a small business.”

“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “It’s so stupid.”

One of her frustrations, she said, is that residents like her did not get to decide themselves. The council’s decision on the ban last year met with contention among some in the community due to a 2013 survey of residents that showed overwhelming opposition to the proposal.

“I don’t remember voting on this,” Gifford said. “I’m not happy about it, but what do you do? It’s not going to affect my business money wise, business wise, but it’s just kind of a pain in the butt.”

The Reporter attempted contacting numerous other businesses potentially affected by the ban. Phone calls were either unreturned or the managers referred the Reporter to their corporate office, where calls were also unreturned by deadline.

The ban will be enforced only when violations are reported.

The ban prohibits single-use plastic bags while allowing exemptions for plastic bags such as those used for transporting bulk food, hardware items, frozen foods, meats and newspapers. It also requires retail stores to charge customers at least a five cent fee for recyclable paper bags.

The only Kirkland City Councilmember to vote against the ordinance was Toby Nixon, who has voiced opposition to the idea of a plastic bag ban from the beginning. The ban was also a topic in the election race between Councilmember Shelley Kloba and challenger Jason Chinchilla.