ACTION ALERT: Single-use plastics ban needs to align with state regulations

On July 31, City of Bellingham Ordinance 2021-05-023 will go into effect that will ban the use of some single-use plastics by retail establishments in Bellingham with the goal of “encouraging compostable or reusable alternatives.”

This new regulation will impact restaurants (no matter their size), coffee shops, hotels, etc. in Bellingham. The ordinance was passed by the city council and signed into law by Mayor Fleetwood last year with an effective date of July 31, 2022 for most of the new regulations (under Section 2), which will put Bellingham at the forefront of these new regulations, starting before the statewide regulations passed by the Governor and state legislature go into effect. Certain other products listed under Section 3 will be prohibited in Bellingham starting January 1, 2023, which include produce bags, catering trays, clear food/shrink wrap and other containers and packaging.

The ordinance promotes an education-first approach but does include penalties “not to exceed $250 per day for the first 20 days that the violation exists” which then increase to $500/day. Again, prior to imposing penalties/taking enforcement, the Ordinance states that “the City shall attempt to provide written notice to any retail establishment in violation…”

Some concerns with this new mandate include:

  • This is being implemented before the statewide mandate goes into effect. Given that this has already been passed into law by the Governor and state legislature, the statewide standard should be the preferred situation versus different local areas having their own, especially for operators who may have locations in more than one jurisdiction.
  • Why is it being put in place at this time businesses (especially small business, which is the overwhelming majority in the city of Bellingham), continue to struggle during this COVID economy with high inflation?
  • This will increase costs for retail business and will be a new hardship as they navigate compliance at a time when they are already facing limited staff and other challenges.
  • Many of the claims or reasons that the Mayor and City Council members list as benefits of this ban will not be impacted by a ban in one city like Bellingham; many of the claims are global and will not be by a city ban .
  • Using utensils or other replacements increase water use, detergent, and energy usage? The ban on single-use ketchup containers like packets is not well worded nor described — what will ketchup now have to be served in?
  • Does the City know what success looks like? What are the benefits vs costs and use of other containers?
  • How will the waivers be granted and how much time will the City spend on enforcement and granting waivers at a time when the City is also struggling with costs as it navigates the current economic challenges?

The WBA is calling on the City of Bellingham to delay the implementation of this new ordinance at least another six months so it is more in line with the statewide regulations. Small businesses need some relief as they struggle with staffing, higher costs, locating new products that will be required under these new requirements, all while they continue to emerge from the COVID impacts and this new, challenging economy.

Please join us to request a DELAY in implementation of Ordinance 2021-05-023 by sending an email with the links below.
Mayor Seth Fleetwood
Bellingham City Council