Bagless in Seattle: Victory is at hand

Earlier this month we noted the legislative initiative to ban plastic bags in Seattle. The initiative demonstrated the persistence of the environmental faithful. In August 2009 the people of Seattle decisively rejected a 20-cent fee for every paper or plastic bag they get from supermarkets, drug stores and convenience stores, the fee having been adopted by an ordinance which had not yet taken effect. Greg Pollowitz hailed the outcome at NRO, quoting an AP story that memorialized the comment of one Rob Gala (shouldn’t that be Gaia?), a spokesman for the Seattle Green Bag campaign: “This campaign is about much more than just one decision of the voters. It’s really about raising the awareness of voters, and we’ve really accomplished that.”

The consciousness of voters having been raised, the bagless returned in a big way. It seems to be a sort of Night of the Living Dead situation. On Monday the Seattle City Council unanimously adopted the proposed ban of plastic carryout bags from grocers, retailers, and department stores. The ban ordinance also imposes a nickel tax on the use of paper bags. The idea is to compel the use of reusable bags. Other than the fact that they are inconvenient and unsanitary, they are great.

The Seattle ban advocates were helped along in their campaign by a providential event:

A gray whale that washed up on a Puget Sound beach last year has become Exhibit A in the debate over whether to ban plastic bags in Seattle.

Environmentalists point to the contents of the dead whale’s stomach, itemized in a necropsy, as a compelling argument that the thin-film carryout shopping bags should be outlawed. The inedible trash that the whale had ingested included sweatpants, a golf ball, surgical gloves, small towels and more than 20 plastic bags.

“While it’s true we don’t know what killed the whale, I think we can all agree those plastic bags don’t belong there,” said Dan Kohler, regional director of Environment Washington, which — along with several other environmental groups including People for Puget Sound and the Sierra Club — supports the city’s proposed ban on plastic bags as a way to protect the Sound and marine wildlife.

Why pick on plastic bags? Opponents of the law made a good point: “The hysteria around this issue is remarkable,” said Michael Johnson, inside-sales manager for Poly Bag in Tacoma, which makes plastic bags and packaging. “If we’re using the itemized list of things that ended up in the whale’s stomach, I’d like to see all those other things banned as well.”

If you harbor any doubts about the rationality of the ban advocates, a viewing of the Seattle City Council meeting at which the ban was adopted probably won’t dispel them. About five minutes into the video, you will find four “Bag Monsters” dressed up as plastic garbage singing to the council about the evils of plastic bags. Following their appearance, one young lady rises tremulously to raise a question concerning the evidence supporting the ban. Let’s just say that the Bag Monsters carry the day.

UPDATE: It occurs to me that those Bag Monsters look a lot like Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor doing their thing in Stir Crazy. Would that they were as funny!

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