Harborites should back state plastic sack ban

Paper or plastic?

Communities across the state have elected to ban “carry-out” plastic bags in one form or another.

Senate Bill 5323 aims to reduce “pollution from plastic bags” by taking that ban statewide. It has cleared the Senate and is working its way through the state House.

This ban would be good for the people of Grays Harbor County.

It’s also good for turtles, as the fifth-graders in Emily Egger’s class at Simpson Elementary might say.

Her class recently led an effort to get the school to cut down on plastic by switching from a plastic spork and a plastic straw in a plastic bag with each meal served at the school, to reusable metal utensils. Other schools in the Montesano School District — and any other using “disposable” utensils — should consider a switch to reusable forks and spoons as well.

Less plastic should help life in the Pacific Ocean. That would be good for area fishers, who make the Port of Grays Harbor among the tops in the nation for landing seafood.

But it also might help the county in another way.

Grays Harbor County receives about $2.5 million per year from the state for timber sales, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

The city of Montesano sells from $600,000 to $1 million a year in timber harvested from its lands.

In 2018, the city sold both its 2018 and 2019 allotments for about $2 million, city officials have said.

Hoquiam also gets a large chunk of its budget from timber sales, officials say.

In many areas where similar bans went into effect, most stores switched to paper bags.

An increase in the use of paper could help area governments the next time they go to sell timber. A higher price for their resources means more money for projects like replacing roads or public health.

When you go to a grocer in areas that have enacted a ban, the store often will charge you five cents per bag, as mandated by some ordinances.

The SB 5323 requires a charge of eight cents per paper bag.

That’s because the bill is looking to change habits. When asked, “Paper or plastic?,” lawmakers hope that ultimately, Washingtonians will say neither and pull out their own reusable bags.