No Bag Ban for Yelm: County’s Plastic Bag Ban In Effect; Doesn’t Apply to Yelm

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Thurston County’s plastic bag ban went into effect July 1, but it does not apply to the city of Yelm.

While a Nisqually Valley News reader reported that at least one Yelm convenience store has done away with plastic bags and is charging customers for paper bags, it’s not because of a plastic bag ban in the city.

The city of Yelm does not ban plastic bags, nor does it intend to implement a ban, according to Mayor Ron Harding.

A business may decide on its own not to provide plastic bags, Harding said. The city sent letters to many businesses explaining the county’s ban didn’t apply to the city, but he said a few smaller retailers may not have been notified.

Harding said the city doesn’t feel it should make decisions for consumers on that level. When the county was gathering information on the ban, the city indicated it would participate in a countywide initiative putting a plastic bag ban up to a vote of the people. Such a vote never materialized.

In addition to unincorporated Thurston County, the cities of Olympia, Tumwater and Lacey now ban plastic bags.

The ban applies to all stores and includes other retailers such as farmers markets and street fairs, according to a press release from the county. The ban applies to plastic bags 2.25 millimeters or thinner; thicker plastic bags are considered reusable and are not restricted, according to the release.

There are exemptions to the ban, including in-store bags for items such as bulk foods, produce and meat. The ban doesn’t apply to bags used for dry cleaning, newspapers, garbage bags sold in packages, or bags for prepared take-out food.

All vendors are required to charge at least 5 cents for paper carryout bags one-eighth barrel or larger, the release states. The paper bags must be made of at least 40 percent recycled content. Smaller bags don’t require a fee.

The fee is paid to retailers to help defray the cost of the paper bags, which are more expensive than plastic, according to the release.

Paper bags are free to customers using food assistance programs to pay for food. Food banks can still use plastic bags to distribute food.

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