Plastic bag ordinance

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History of the bag ordinance project

Thurston County Solid Waste staff has been working with the community to explore ways to reduce the estimated 90 million plastic shopping bags we use annually.

In 2011, the Thurston County Solid Waste Advisory Committee (SWAC) asks Solid Waste to address the issue of plastic bag use. SWAC is made up of city, citizen, and industry representatives.


Step 1: Notify local jurisdictions about this project

Our first step was to discuss the project with city councils and the Board of County Comissioners.

Initial city council meetings and work sessions to discuss the bag outreach project:
Bucoda Apr 10, 2012
Yelm Apr 24, 2012
Rainier Apr 24, 2012
Tumwater May 22, 2012
Lacey June 4, 2012
Tenino June 12, 2012
Olympia Aug 14, 2012


Step 2: Seek community input and collect data

Solid Waste staff created a survey see what people in our community have to say about plastic bags. Staff and volunteers surveyed residents at public events, outside local retail stores, and online. See the results of that survey.

Staff continued to work throughout the community for several months to discuss the problems that plastic shopping bags can create and to get ideas from the public on how we can reduce our use.


Step 3: Analyze results

Solid Waste put together the results of the survey and community feedback in a final report, “Reducing Our Use: Plastic Shopping Bags." Read the final report here.

Staff presented the to SWAC in September 2012. The Thurston County Solid Waste Advisory Committee approved the report and included the following:

This report has made it clear that plastic bags constitute a serious environmental and health hazard. The enumeration of possible solutions, other than a complete ban on the use of bags, makes it clear that the alternatives outlined in this report are not likely to be feasible and effective. We therefore conclude that it is essential to have the same ban on plastic bags that has been adopted by other municipalities in the State of Washington, and we hereby recommend that the city councils of the cities of Thurston County and the Thurston County Commissioners also adopt a plastic bag ban.


Step 4: Report findings to local juridictions

Solid Waste staff then presented the report to each city and requested their recommendation on how to reduce our use of plastic shopping bags.

Local government meetings and work sessions to present report and request recommendations:
Tumwater—work session 12/11/12 5:30 pm Minutes Recommend drafting a bag ban ordinance.
Olympia—council meeting 1/15/13 7:00 pm Minutes Recommend drafting a bag ban ordinance.
Rainier—work session 1/22/13 6:30 pm Note Recommend supplier/manufacturer of the plastic bags pay the 5 cents a bag, rather than the consumer.
Bucoda—council meeting 2/12/13 7:00 pm Minutes Recommend drafting a bag ban ordinance.
Yelm—study session 2/27/13 5:00 pm Minutes Recommend countywide vote on plastic bag ban.
Tenino—council meeting 3/26/13 7:30 pm Minutes Recommend drafting a bag ban ordinance.
Lacey—council meeting 3/28/13 7:00 pm Minutes Recommend drafting a bag ban ordinance.
Recommend countywide vote on plastic bag ban.
Thurston County—briefing 5/1/13 9:30 am Directed staff to form a countywide stakeholders group to draft the ordinance language.

Solid Waste provided these recommendations to the Thurston County Board of Commissioners on May 1, 2013.


Step 5: Draft plastic bag ordinance

The Board of Commissioners requested Solid Waste staff to form a stakeholders group of businesses, business associations, non-profits, and residents to develop language for an ordinance. The group completed the draft in July 2013.


Step 6: Provide ordinance to local jurisdictions

The Board of Commissioners provided the completed ordinance language and a cover letter to all local jurisdictions on August 13, 2013.

Status of bag ban ordinances in local jurisdictions

Bucoda  — 
Lacey Passed bag ban ordinance at Feb. 13, 2014 City Council meeting.
Olympia Passed bag ban ordinance at Oct. 8, 2013 public hearing.
Rainier  — 
Tenino Topic of plastic bag ordinance tabled indefinitely.
Thurston County Passed bag ban ordinance at Sept. 24, 2013 public hearing.
Tumwater Passed bag ban ordinance at Sept. 17, 2013 public hearing.
Yelm  — 


What has been done in other places?

Bans have been adopted around the world. Below are the results from some successful efforts:



Learn more about plastics




Contact us

Call Terri Thomas at (360) 867-2279 or e-mail Thomaste@co.thurston.wa.us.

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