City Council Listens, Reduces, Rewrites Plastics Ordinance

At the Tuesday June 22nd Regular Business Meeting, City Council responded to a wave of strong community feedback, and significantly changed course on what was previously known as the Plastics Ordinance (#2021-18).

Now known as the “Single Use Food Ware and Waste Reduction” Ordinance, the revised version changed both areas that were deadlocked on 3-to-3 votes just a week earlier, namely:

  1. Not allowing businesses to unilaterally offer utensils, lids or cups to customers in to-go orders (can’t ask, can’t guess), and
  2. Rejecting the gaining of more knowledge on these matters via forming a task force of councilmembers and informed representatives from the community.

After impassioned public comments appealing for common sense and a place for community input on this issue led by Madison Diner’s David Shaw and the Chamber’s Stefan Goldby, a relatively low-key debate amongst the council was headlined by Councilmember Carr (who was absent last week) stating that she was not in favor of the ‘can’t ask, can’t guess’ clause added by other members of council.

That was followed by all councilmembers stating their strong support for a task force to advise on the ordinance, one comprised of 3 council representatives and 2-4 members of each the business and environmental communities of the island.

The task force would then be given until September to talk to and better represent a unified Bainbridge-wide approach to reducing waste and leading the way on sustainable practices in the food, drink and hospitality industries on the island. A wider, more nuanced update and expansion of the ordinance will then be developed, one more in line with the fresh  feedback received from all sectors of Bainbridge life.

In the end, what had been a hotly-debated issue for weeks became a pair of unanimous votes – 7-0 NO on forbidding businesses from being able to offer utensils and 7-0 YES on forming a task force on this issue in partnership with environmental experts and the business community.

Thank you to all the members of the business community, environmental community and the island community at large for their generosity, passion and timely feedback to council, all of which allowed such a positive outcome at the June 22 meeting.

Over the next few months, the Chamber looks forward to being a productive community partner in helping to steer a practical, sensible approach to making our island a leader in the move towards:

  1. Reducing/eliminating waste from food and drink packaging (plus single use toiletries in lodging establishments)
  2. Educating and encouraging people to bring their own re-usable cups, straws etc (something that was already happening pre-COVID)
  3. Incrementally improving the recyclability and compostability of the materials that take-out cups, plates, utensils are made of
  4. Encouraging more local recycling and composting facilities to avoid transporting waste wherever possible.

See more details on the June 22 Council Meeting at: https://www.bainbridgereview.com/news/businesses-get-bi-to-scale-back-plastic-law/

For the full background background to this story, please see the June 15th article:

Look for more updates here at bainbridgechamber.com on this developing issue as they become available.