Fewer plastic bags are floating around Thurston County as litter or contaminating our recycling and compost programs. This is largely due to the plastic bag bans adopted by Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater, and the unincorporated areas of Thurston County in 2014.
The Solid Waste Division of the Public Works Department conducted a waste sort shortly after the ban took effect last year. A 53% decrease was seen even while some stores and residents were using up supplies they had. "The main reason for the ban was the negative environmental impacts of the approximately 90 million single-use plastic shopping bags used in Thurston County each year. So that large of a decrease, that quickly, shows it is working," said Terri Thomas, Waste Reduction Specialist with the County.
Six months into the ban, Thurston County Solid Waste conducted a survey soliciting feedback of residents and local businesses and has now posted those results online. "We were glad to see that over 7,300 residents took the survey but disappointed that we received only 65 business responses," said Thomas. The countywide survey results, with comments, is 819 pages so best read online. The results are also broken down by jurisdiction. Only 3% of residents report carrying out their purchases in single-use plastic bags as opposed to 63% before the ban. Use of reusable bags has gone from 20% to 53%. Forty-six percent of the residents and 51% of verified businesses that took the survey feel the ban should be kept in place or expanded to other jurisdictions.
The Solid Waste Division will conduct another survey of residents and businesses on the plastic bag ban ordinance in July 2016. Those interested in reading the six-month report and survey results can visit www.ThurstonSolidWaste.org/plastics.
The website also lists the ordinances, tips to remember to bring your bags, guidelines for safe use of reusable bags, and downloadable signs for retailers. For more information, contact Terri Thomas at ThomasTe@co.thurston.wa.us or (360) 867-2279.