Starting July 2012, single-use plastic bags will no longer be provided at Seattle retail stores.

Reminder: Plastic bag ban goes into effect

Starting July 1st, shoppers will no longer be asked 'paper or plastic' when checking out at a Seattle retail store.

In December of last year Seattle City council approved a plastic bag ordinance, Council Bill 117345, intended to help clean up Puget Sound and protect marine wildlife by banning single-use plastic bags.

Seattle alone uses approximately 292 million plastic bags annually, only 13 percent of which are recycled, according to Seattle Public Utilities.

In addition to a ban on plastic bags, the ordinance promotes reusable bags instead of simply switching to disposable paper bags. The ordinance requires that retailers charge $0.05 per paper bag to consumers who do not bring reusable bags.

The nickel serves as a reminder to consumers to bring reusable bags. Retailers will keep the nickel as a means for recovering costs of switching to paper bags.

Seattle Public Utilities is responsible for outreach to businesses and public education leading up to July 1st as well as after the law takes effect. The utilities' solid waste division will also monitor and enforce the ordinance.

Washingtonians use more than 2 billion single-use plastic bags each year, and
similar plastic bag legislation was also passed in Bellingham and Edmonds last year.

"We know that recycling alone cannot protect Puget Sound and our ocean waters from these plastic bags," O'Brien said in a statement last year. "Of course people are not intentionally littering their bags into Puget Sound, but with so many in circulation, bags are ending up there, causing real damage to habitats and wildlife. Bringing our own reusable bags when we go shopping is a simple step we can all take that will protect our environment and reduce unnecessary waste."

"In the last few years, we have learned much more about how much plastic is in Puget Sound and the impact it has on marine wildlife," said Katrina Rosen, Field Director for Environment Washington. "Banning plastic bags is an important step we must take to protect Puget Sound wildlife and we are happy to see City Council stepping up to be a part of this growing global movement."

Seattle is the fourth city in Washington to ban plastic bags following Edmonds, Bellingham, and, most recently, Mukilteo. Regionally, Seattle joins the Hawaiian islands of Maui and Kauai, more than a dozen municipalities in California, more than 30 coastal towns in Alaska, and neighboring Portland in taking action against plastic bags.

Visit the legislation, here.

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