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What you need to know about Tacoma’s new plastic-bag crackdown

Thin plastic retail bags such as these will become a thing of the past next month for Tacoma.
Thin plastic retail bags such as these will become a thing of the past next month for Tacoma. News Tribune file, 2015

Tacoma’s idea of BYOB will kick in next month.

Starting July 12, you’ll need to bring your own bags when you shop anywhere in the city limits.

The City Council passed the Bring Your Own Bag ordinance July 12, 2016.

The ban is patterned after laws in Bellingham and other Washington cities. People who support such bans cite plastic bags’ dangers to marine wildlife and the proliferation of litter in urban areas.

WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU

▪ Those flimsy, plastic bags parked at the end of retail checkout counters will be a thing of the past. Start putting together your personal shopping-bag collection now.

▪ If you forget to bring your own bags and don’t want to be juggle your cereal, toilet paper, paper towels and toothpaste freestyle to your car, you can request a bag made of recycled paper or a reusable checkout bag. These bags also come with acharge of at least five cents per bag. (The store keeps that fee).

▪ Customers with benefits cards (EBT, WIC, TANF) will not pay the five-cent charge if they request these bags, as long as they show proof of benefits when checking out.

▪ You will not be charged any bag fees if you bring your own bags.

▪ The new ordinance affects all retail in Tacoma’s city limits, including grocery stores, convenience stores, department stores, hardware stores, liquor stores, pharmacies and temporary vendors such as those at farmers markets and festivals.

BAGS NOT INCLUDED IN BAN

▪ Produce bags used for meat and bulk items in the store; dry-cleaning bags and pet-waste bags, among others.

▪ Bags provided for takeout food and liquids for consumption away from premises.

HOW TO GET FREE BAGS

Before BYOB takes effect, the city will give away free, reusable checkout bags.

“These will be given out through food banks, Tacoma Public libraries, Tacoma Housing Authority, other community-service organizations, community events, and Tacoma FIRST 311 at the Tacoma Municipal Building,” according to the city’s website. A list of participating organizations is at http://bit.ly/2syb9yB

BUILD NEW HABITS

Some ideas from the city’s shoppers guide about the new ordinance:

▪ Keep your reusable bags by your door at home or in the passenger compartment of your vehicle so you don’t forget them on shopping trips.

▪ Make “bring shopping bags” the first item on your shopping list.

▪ Add a sticky note to your dashboard to remind you to bring along bags.

▪ Find ways at home to rid yourself of plastic bags.

“Try packing lunch in a reusable bag, go without a bin liner for your small trash bins and look for pet-waste-specific bags in grocery stores or in city parks,” the city site recommends.

If you start practicing before the new ordinance takes effect, you’ll be ready to go, and the change will be no big deal to you.

More information is available at cityoftacoma.org/shoppingbags or by calling the city’s information line at 311 within the city limits.

Debbie Cockrell: 253-597-8364, @Debbie_Cockrell

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