In a new initiative to go green, Seattle has become the latest city in the United States to ban the usage of plastic shopping bags.
Plastic shopping bags will be banned from grocery and other retail stores in an attempt to lure shoppers into using reusable bags when they shop.
The new initiative will not ban stores from carrying bags altogether, but it would charge a five cent charge for consumers that want to purchase paper bags to carry their goods. The initiative was passed by a unanimous vote in Seattle’s City Council on Monday and is the second time that the city has attempted to curb the usage of plastic and paper bags for consumers.
Three years ago, the city attempted set a 20 cent fee for bags provided by retail stores, however, the fee was overturned after the issue went for a vote on a citywide ballot.
Seattle’s City Council said that their purpose for voting in approval of the plastic bag ban is to reduce litter, protect marine life, and free up landfill space.
Council members have said that low-income segments of the population can show proof of eligibility for food assistance programs to avoid the added fee for bags.
Council member Mike O’Brien said that the only reason the city would continue to allow the usage of paper bags is because Seattle has one of the highest rates in the nation for paper bag recycling, with 85 percent of paper bags making it into Seattle’s recycling bins.
“It’s going to really make a difference for our environment,” said Council President Richard Conlin said of the new plastic bag ban.
Plastic bags have a lifespan of around 1,000 years, causing loading in landfills. They are also hazardous to animals and are reported to be the cause of dozens of toddler choking incidences across the country each year.
Charging for plastic bags is commonplace across many European nations and is becoming a growing trend across cities in the United States.
Plastic bags are now banned in large cities across the U.S., including Portland, San Francisco, and San Jose. In Washington D.C., a five cent fee is charged to consumers by businesses that sell alcohol or food.