Tacoma City Council approves plastic bag ban on 8-1 vote

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TACOMA -- Tacoma will join 14 other Washington jurisdictions who have  plastic bag bans, including Seattle.

The Tacoma City Council voted 8-1 to approve the ban Tuesday night. However, it will not take effect for a year.

Seattle's ban is considered the preferred model across the nation. At a Seattle City Council meeting Tuesday, Seattle Public Utilities reported the success of the program. It saw a nearly 50% decrease in plastic bags in residential garbage from 262 tons in 2010 to 136 tons in 2014. A greater decline was seen in commercial or self haul at 78% decline from 273 tons in 2008 to 59 tons in 2012.

That success is why other cities like Tacoma are interested in a similar plastic bag ban, but it comes with concerns.

For the past 20 years, Dennis Vercillo has been selling items at Vercillo's Catholic Book & Gift. He's been putting those goods in plastic bags to give to his customers.

But the Tacoma City Council could change all that Tuesday night if they vote to ban plastic bags.

"Banning the plastic carryout, with the charge for paper, and encouraging reuse," said Seattle Public Utilities' Sego Jackson.

That's the Seattle model being used across the country. Vercillo says the ban comes at a cost.

"It puts a burden on us to serve our customers who come in here because we’re going to add a cost," said Vercillo.

It's a cost he says isn't fair for small businesses.

"There are exemptions for the restaurant industry but there’s no exemptions for small businesses for less say under $200,000 a year or under 10 employees," said Vercillo.

To counter that concern, Tacoma's ban would come with a 5-cent surcharge for customers asking for paper bags.

"The paper bags are actually quite expensive so that helps offset the costs of the paper bags and that serves as a reminder to the public to use the reusable bag which is the whole point," said Jackson.

Because of the non-compliance by many Seattle businesses, Jackson says businesses who consistently and negligently do not comply with the plastic bag ban will start to face $250 fines.

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