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Law to reduce plastic bag use effective Aug. 1, 2012

Reusable grocery bag

The City of Bellingham is taking a big step forward in reducing litter and unnecessary waste, protecting water and wildlife, and saving money by reducing the use of plastic bags in our community.

The Bellingham City Council approved the Single Use Carry Out Bag Ordinance (commonly known as the "plastic bag ban") in July 2011.

The new law – effective Aug. 1, 2012 – encourages the use of reusable bags by banning thin "single-use" plastic carry-out bags. Paper carry-out bags will still be available, but will cost a nickel. This nickel serves as a modest monetary reminder for shoppers to bring reusable bags. The nickel will be kept by retailers to help them recover the costs of switching to paper bags; the nickel is not a new tax and doesn't go to the City.

While the thin plastic carry-out bags at grocery stores and other retailers will not be allowed, common sense exemptions are built into the ordinance. For example, plastic bags that are used for meats and produce in grocery stores and for restaurant take-out foods will still be allowed, because of the public health functions they play. Dry cleaning bags also will be allowed. Stores will still be able to offer small paper "product bags" that allow customers to gather items within a store.  Stores that currently provide small paper bags free-of-charge at checkout—such as pharmacies, bookstores, and gift stores—may continue this practice. 

City officials are developing plans to implement this new law, focusing primarily on community education and assistance to affected businesses. Watch for more information in the weeks ahead!

More information


Published: Feb 7, 2012

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