Chapter 6.47


6.47.010    Definitions.

6.47.020    Regulations.

6.47.030    Recycled paper bags cost pass-through.

6.47.040    Exemptions.

6.47.050    Remedies.

6.47.010 Definitions.

“Carryout bag” means any bag that is provided by a retail establishment at the point of sale to a customer for use to transport or carry away purchases, such as merchandise, goods or food, from the retail establishment. “Carryout bag” does not include:

A. Bags used by consumers inside stores to: (1) package bulk items, such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, candy or small hardware items; (2) contain or wrap frozen foods, meat, fish, whether packaged or not; (3) contain or wrap flowers, potted plants, or other items where dampness may be a problem; or (4) contain unwrapped prepared foods or bakery goods; (5) pharmacy prescription bags; or

B. Newspaper bags, door-hanger bags, laundry-dry cleaning bags, or bags sold in packages containing multiple bags intended for use as garbage, pet waste, or yard waste bags.

“Food provider” means any person or establishment in the city of Bellingham, that provides prepared food for public consumption on or off its premises and includes, without limitation, any store, shop, sales outlet, restaurant, grocery store, delicatessen, or catering truck or vehicle.

“Grocery store” means any retail establishment that sells groceries, fresh, packaged, canned, dry, prepared or frozen food or beverage products and similar items, and includes, without limitation, supermarkets, convenience stores, liquor stores and gasoline stations.

“Nonprofit charitable reuser” means a charitable organization, as defined in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, or a distinct operating unit or division of the charitable organization, that reuses and recycles donated goods or materials and receives more than 50 percent of its revenues from the handling and sale of those donated goods or materials.

“Paper bag cost pass-through” means the cost which must be collected by retailers from their customers when providing a recycled paper bag.

“Pharmacy” means any retail store, where prescriptions, medications, controlled or over the counter drugs, personal care products or health supplement goods or vitamins are sold, but excluding any licensed pharmacy located within a hospital.

“Product bag” means any bag provided to a customer for use within a retail establishment to assist in the collection or transport of products to the point of sale within the retail establishment.

“Recycled paper bag” means a paper carryout bag provided by a store to a customer at the point of sale that meets all of the following requirements:

A. Except as provided in subsection (B) of this definition, the paper carryout bag contains an average of 40 percent post consumer recycled materials.

B. An eight-pound or smaller recycled paper bag shall contain a minimum of 20 percent post consumer recycled material.

C. The paper carryout bag is accepted for recycling in curbside programs in a majority of households that have access to curbside recycling programs in the city.

D. The paper carryout bag is capable of composting, consistent with the timeline and specifications of the American Society of Testing and Material (ASTM) Standard D6400, as published in Master Environmental Assessment on Single Use and Reusable Bags, March 2010.

E. Printed on the paper carryout bag is the minimum percentage of post consumer content.

“Retail establishment” means any person, including any corporation, partnership, business, facility, vendor, organization or individual that sells or provides merchandise, goods or materials, including, without limitation, clothing, food, or personal items of any kind, directly to a customer. Retail establishment includes, without limitation, any grocery store, department store, hardware store, pharmacy, liquor store, restaurant, catering truck, convenience store, and any other retail store or vendor.

“Reusable bag” means a bag made of cloth or other fabric with handles that is specifically designed and manufactured for long-term multiple reuse and meets all of the following requirements:

A. Had a minimum lifetime of 125 uses, which for purposes of this subsection, means the capability of carrying a minimum of 22 pounds 125 times over a distance of at least 175 feet;

B. Is machine washable;

C. If made of plastic, is a minimum of at least two and one-fourth mils thick.

“Single-use plastic carryout bag” means any bag that is less than two and one-fourth mils thick and is made of nonrenewable resources. [Ord. 2011-07-034].

6.47.020 Regulations.

A. No retail establishment in the city shall provide a single-use plastic carryout bag to a customer unless otherwise permitted pursuant to BMC 6.47.040.

B. Retail establishments in the city shall provide to a customer at the point of sale a reusable bag or a recycled paper bag unless otherwise permitted pursuant to BMC 6.47.040.

C. No person shall distribute a single-use plastic carryout bag at any city facility, city-managed concession, city sponsored event, or city permitted event unless otherwise permitted pursuant to BMC 6.47.040.

D. No person shall distribute a single-use plastic carryout bag or any paper bag at the Bellingham farmers’ markets, except eight pound or smaller recycled paper bags that may be distributed free of charge for mushrooms. [Ord. 2011-07-034].

6.47.030 Recycled paper bags cost pass-through.

A. Retail establishments may provide a customer a recycled paper bag upon request but shall charge the customer a reasonable pass-through cost, but not less than $0.05.

B. Retail establishments shall indicate on the customer transaction receipts the total amount of the paper bag pass-through charge. [Ord. 2011-07-034].

6.47.040 Exemptions.

A. Notwithstanding the regulations contained in BMC 6.47.020:

1. Single-use plastic carryout bags may be distributed to customers by food providers for the purpose of safeguarding public health and safety during the transportation of prepared take-out foods and prepared liquids intended for consumption away from the food provider’s premises.

2. Retail establishments may distribute product bags and may make reusable bags available to customers whether through sale or otherwise.

3. Retail establishments whose carryout bags are for small items, such as gifts, books and nails, may offer a small paper bag for no charge.

4. Nonprofit charitable reusers who sell and promote the use of reusable bags and offer a discount when customer brings own bag.

B. Notwithstanding the requirements contained in BMC 6.47.030:

1. A store shall provide a customer participating in Washington State’s low-income food assistance program with a reusable bag or a recycled paper bag at no cost at the point of sale including, but not limited to, Medicaid and Women, Infant and Children programs.

C. The mayor may exempt a retail establishment from the requirements of this chapter for up to a one-year period, upon a request by the retail establishment showing that the conditions of this chapter would cause undue hardship. An undue hardship shall only be found in:

1. Circumstances or situations unique to the particular retail establishment such that there are no reasonable alternatives to single-use plastic carryout bags or a paper bag pass-through cannot be collected; or

2. Circumstances or situations unique to the retail establishment such that compliance with the requirements of this chapter would deprive a person of a legally protected right.

D. If a retail establishment requires an exemption beyond the initial exemption period, the retail establishment must reapply prior to the end of the exemption period and must demonstrate continued undue hardship if it wishes to have the exemption extended. Extensions may only be granted for intervals not to exceed one year.

E. An exemption request shall include all information necessary for the city to make its decision, including but not limited to documentation showing the factual support for the claimed exemption. The mayor may require the applicant to provide additional information to permit the city to determine facts regarding the exemption request.

F. The mayor may approve the exemption request, in whole or in part, with or without conditions.

G. Exemption decisions are effective immediately, are final and are not appealable.

H. The city council may by resolution establish a fee for exemption requests. The fee shall be sufficient to cover the costs of processing the exemption request. [Amended during 2013 recodification; Ord. 2011-07-034].

6.47.050 Remedies.

A. The city of Bellingham shall assist retailers by referring them to the city website with information which will help retail associations, unions, and other organizations to create educational elements about the benefits of reusable bags. This may include signage at store locations, informational literature, and employee training and will take place before and after the operative date. All retail establishments are strongly encouraged to educate their staff to promote reusable bags as the best option for carryout bags and to post signs encouraging customers to use reusable bags.

B. The mayor is authorized to establish regulations and to take any and all actions reasonable and necessary to obtain compliance with this chapter, including, but not limited to, inspecting any retail establishment’s premises to verify compliance.

C. Any person violating this section shall be guilty of an infraction, which shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250.00.

D. The city attorney may seek legal, injunctive, or other equitable relief to enforce this chapter.

E. Administrative enforcement of this chapter shall proceed pursuant to Bellingham Municipal Code with the fines to be graduated for repeat violations in amounts set forth by city council resolution.

F. Each violation of this chapter shall be considered a separate offense.

G. The remedies and penalties provided in this section are cumulative and not exclusive, and nothing in this chapter shall preclude any person from pursuing any other remedies provided by law.

H. Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, commencing on the date the ordinance becomes effective, this chapter may be enforced through any remedy as provided for in this section.

I. Any provision of the Bellingham Municipal Code or appendices thereto inconsistent with the provisions of this chapter, to the extent of such inconsistencies and no further, is hereby repealed or modified to that extent necessary to effect the provisions of this chapter.

J. If any section, subsection, sentence, clause, or phrase of this chapter is for any reason held to be invalid or unconstitutional by a decision of any court of competent jurisdiction, such decision shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions of this chapter. The city council hereby declares that it would have passed this chapter and each and every section, subsection, sentence, clause, or phrase not declared invalid or unconstitutional without regard to whether any portion of the ordinance would be subsequently declared invalid or unconstitutional.

K. Any provision of this chapter thereto inconsistent with Washington State law, to the extent of such inconsistencies and no further, is hereby repealed or modified to match state law.

L. Effective Date. This chapter shall become effective one year from date of enactment. [Ord. 2011-07-034].