Burgess's office corrects information it provided previously, saying, "Councilmember Burgess will be exploring options this summer, but there is no specific target date for legislation."
The Seattle City Council will begin drafting a bill this summer to ban single-use plastic shopping bags, according to the office of Council Member Tim Burgess. In a blog post last week, Burgess wrote, "Plastic bags contribute to litter, they accumulate in our oceans and harm marine life, and they cause a negative drag on our forests."
If the bill passes, it almost certainly ensures another clash between the plastic lobby and the city council. In 2008, the council approved a 20-cent bag fee, which triggered an anti-bag-fee referendum, funded with $1.3 million from the American Chemistry Council (ACC), making it the most heavily funded campaign in Seattle history. Burgess called that "a massive, million-dollar hoodwink campaign by the oil industry" on his blog. Voters soundly repealed the bag fee in August 2009.
"We are dismayed that folks would bring that up again and look at a bag ban," says Keith Christman, managing director of plastic markets for the ACC, a coalition of plastic manufacturers.
The ACC has not yet taken a formal position on the bill proposed by Burgess or committed itself to a campaign or lobbying. Christman says, "I think we have to wait and see what happens." However, he notes that 62 percent of people in Seattle oppose a bag ban, according to a survey commissioned by Seattle Public Utilities in 2008.
Meanwhile, the ACC is fighting a proposed bag ban in California, where the state assembly last week passed a ban that will go before the state senate later this year. But Christman won't say how much money the group is spending in California. "We will file paperwork in the state when it is appropriate," he says.
On the other side of the fight in Seattle is Heather Trim, a leader of the group Zero Waste Seattle. "If we have to mobilize [for a campaign], we will," she says. But Trim is holding out hope that studies completed as part of California's legislative process will discourage the ACC from challenging a bag ban in Seattle.
This story has been updated since its original publication.