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Snohomish residents adapting to plastic bag ban

Meg and Royce Gray exit the Haggen in Snohomish with pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. A city ordinance banning plastic bags went into effect at the start of 2020.

SNOHOMISH — The city’s plastic bag ban resulted in a few bag-free shopping experiences as people adjusted to remembering to bring a bag, but most were willing to adapt to the change.
Shoppers in the city now pay 10 to 25 cents each for thicker plastic bags, but thin bags that blow into trees and litter sidewalks are now banned. The change is in response to a city ordinance that bans single-use plastic bags, following Seattle, Bellingham, Tacoma and other municipalities in a trend intended to reduce environmental harm.
The law aims to reduce waste, and the hope is that people will find a reusable option rather than using plastic at all. If they do, the thick replacement-bags are 10 to 25 cents each; a fee that stays in the hands of retailers. The city collects nothing, unless a business is non-compliant. That fee is $250 per day. The law applies to any business that offers carryout items.
Several small businesses were contacted to measure impact. Two businesses responded but did not want to state publicly what they thought of the law: both were adapting to changes with challenges around customer comfort. Both were supportive of the environmental benefit.
Mayor John Kartak said that as of Jan. 15, no one had applied for the one-year temporary exemption offered for businesses experiencing “undue hardship” as they implement the change.
Kartak has visited businesses all over the city in preparation for the law, to let them know it was coming. Both the city and the Tribune announced the law in advance of its implementation.
Stasia Porter, the evening shift person-in-charge at Haggen in Snohomish, son-in-charge at Haggen in Snohomish, said some customers had trouble remembering their reusable bags but most were supportive of the ban. But she said some customers did not realize a city ban coming.
“They feel left out of the loop,” she said of her customers. “We do a lot of explaining at the checkstand.”
Terry Newitt of Snohomish was exiting with his shopping cart full of unbagged groceries. He sometimes forgets his reusable bags in the car but said the ban is still “a pretty good idea.”
“It’s a little ‘suck-o’ when you forget your bags in the car,” said Hollan Whitham of Snohomish, but she said the change is past due. “I think we know too much about how we’re treating the planet. We know we need to do this.”
Meg Gray of Snohomish said she was supportive of the law. Her husband Royce Gray took the other side of the debate.
“I think it is needed and it’s really easy not to have bags,” Meg said, holding a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia that matched the one her husband was carrying. Neither spouse had a bag. And while they agreed on ice cream, they did not align on the plastic bag ban. “I completely disagree. I think this is a hassle,” said Royce.
And while not everyone was happy about the change, adjustments were minimal.
Kartak uses a Costco-shopping method to support the bag ban: he keeps cardboard boxes in his family’s SUV.  At Costco, “they give you a box, or no box” but do not offer bags. Kartak said he was opposed to the law at inception due to impact on small-business owners and on city staff.
“I don’t know that it’s the best use of municipal tax dollars” to implement it, he said.
Snohomish is focused on five main priorities, including utilities, police, streets, parks, and planning and development, he explained. But he said he supports the process, so he is showing support now that the law is in place.
Jeff Harper, a checker at Haggen, said he has seen a quick adaptation to the bag ban — as soon as the law took effect. Many customers were already carrying reusable bags.
“It’s a lot more normalized over the years,” Harper said, so some people were already in the habit of bringing a bag.  

Newspaper seeks opinions
The Tribune is collecting feedback on the cost and impact to small businesses by the changeover to reusable plastic bags. We want to hear comments about the law as well. Please title your email “Snohomish Bag Ban” in the subject line, and send to

A few tips to remember reusable bags:
• Keep the bags in the front seat of your vehicle.
• Put a note by the door of the vehicle to remind you
• Write “bring bags” on your shopping list.

Exemptions to the plastic bag ban
Shoppers exempted from the pass-through charge include people who use Women Infants and Children (WIC); Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF); Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as Basic Food; and the Washington State Food Assistance Program (FAP).



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