Tips on how to cope with Bellingham's bag ban

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 22, 2012 

Maybe you've heard that Bellingham banned those flimsy plastic "carry out" bags used at groceries and other stores. Well, you heard correctly, and the ban starts Aug. 1.

Some people have complained that life will less convenient without the bags. My worry was whether I'd have enough bags to pick up my two dogs' ... well, you know what I'm talking about.

A while back I talked to some folks in Edmonds, where they have now lived under a bag ban for nearly two years. Their consensus: It's not a big deal; people adjust and life goes on.

Stores in Bellingham can still offer thicker plastic bags. More likely, most people will tote their groceries and other goods in reusable bags, or pay the store at least a nickel for each large paper bag they need.

Since the local law isn't going away or changing anytime soon, here are tips on how to adjust:

• Start now. Go ahead, change your routine and smooth out any wrinkles before the hammer falls Aug. 1.

• If, like me, you use a grocery list, start it with "bring bags."

• Keep your reusable bags - whether paper, plastic or fabric - by the door, in your car or near your car keys, or at all of those locations, so you won't be caught short.

• If they fit, keep foldable bags in your pocket, backpack, briefcase or purse.

• Remember, if you're buying just a few items, you might not need a bag. It's OK to carry things out by hand; just have your receipt ready in case someone becomes suspicious.

• Be patient. You might have to go back to your car to retrieve a bag, or you might have to pay a nickel or more for some paper bags. Don't stress out; it takes time to adopt new habits.

• Wash reusable bags regularly with your laundry. If they can't be washed, clean them with soap and water, or buy washable ones.

• For holidays and birthdays, reusable bags are inexpensive and helpful gifts for others. Or, with a bit of ribbon and a bow, they become handy gift covers that keep on giving.

This next list is for people who want to stockpile plastic bags for their canine duties or other uses. The thing to remember is that Bellingham's law bans a particular kind of plastic bag - thin, single-use "carry out" bags. That means plenty of other plastic bags will remain available for use by pet owners and other people. Still legal are ...

• Bags to hold bulk food, such as nuts, grains and granola.

• Bags for fruits and vegetables from A (apples) to Z (zucchini).

• Small bags that retailers use to protect meat, fish, bakery goods, flowers and similar items.

• Bags that restaurants provide for takeout food.

• Bags used at grocers' deli counters for roasted chickens, soups and other to-go food that can leak or spill.

• Newspaper bags (another reason to subscribe to The Bellingham Herald) and door-hanger bags.

Stores will still sell packages of plastic bags, such garbage bags, leaf bags and pet waste bags.

I know that some people buy pet waste bags, but I'm enough of a tightwad that I don't want to pick up that habit. Pet waste should end up in a landfill, not on your neighbor's shoe, so I'll send it there in spare plastic bags that are headed for the landfill anyway.


MORE DETAILS

For more information about Bellingham's bag ban, go to cob.org.

Reach DEAN KAHN at dean.kahn@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2291.

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