The fees, a 20 cent surcharge on paper and plastic bags intended to discourage their use approved by the City Council in July 2007, was originally set to be begin on January 1 of this year. However, in August of last year a collection of signatures overturned the decision and delayed its enactment. The ordinance approved today will allow voters to rescind the council's original decision.
The surcharge, also called the "bag tax," would have applied to grocery, drug, and convenience stores, the source of nearly 75 percent of all bags. According to a Seattle Public Utilities report this would save the city 4,000 tons of greenhouse gas each year.
Twenty-five percent of the 20 cent fee would remain with the business distributing the bags, while the other seventy-five percent would be recouped by the city to manage solid waste and support recycling programs.
Opponents of the program such as the Northwest Economic Policy Seminar who run the website SeattleBagTax.org, have stated that the program is "largely symbolic and will have little or no noticeable impact" and "will be little more than a 'feel good' program."
The council vote today will add the ordinance to the August 19 primary election ballot.