COBI’s New Single-Use Plastics Ordinance Proposal Still A Work In Progress

At tonight’s (Tuesday June 15) City Council Study Session (6pm start), Bainbridge’s Councilmembers meet to discuss refining an initial draft of a new Plastics Ordinance (#2021-18) into something clearer, more precise and consistent throughout. The ordinance’s goal is ‘to reduce the use of single-use plastic food service ware, including utensils and take-out containers, by all Island food service establishments”. The version which emerges from tonight’s session is the one that should then be examined as the final proposal, something that, without significant public comment, could become an approved piece of Island legislation.

While almost everyone can align behind overall goals to reduce and ultimately eliminate single-use plastics wherever possible, and to increase the use of recyclable and biodegradable/compostable packaging as much as possible, the complicated additions, strikethroughs, and corrections in the current draft leave much room for confusion.

As originally submitted by Councilmember Carr and subsequently amended by City Attorney Joe Levan, the current working draft contains notes, references to text that is not present, and seemingly contradictory passages that are consistent only with other documents being prepared for open discussion in the tradition of a city already known as “a leader in developing responsible waste management policies including a ban on polystyrene food packaging in 1989 and a ban on single-use plastic bags in 2012“.

The current confusion is in a good cause, and a product of multiple council members trying to find a shared point of view in the interests of our community. Consider this a potential study in open and transparent local government, one that invites comment at all stages, but at this point, it is important to remember that today’s  draft is a document that exists mostly to help produce a more polished and actionable draft for consideration at the upcoming City Council Regular Business Meeting next week (Tuesday June 22 at 6pm).


The Plastics Ordinance has the potential to affect many parts of island life – it specifically targets, “any fixed or mobile restaurant; drive-in; coffee shop; cafeteria; short-order cafe; delicatessen; luncheonette; grill; sandwich shop; soda fountain; tavern; bar; cocktail lounge; nightclub; roadside stand; take out prepared food establishment; industrial feeding establishment; catering kitchen; commissary; grocery store; public food market; food stand; or similar place in which food or drink is prepared for sale or for service on the premises or elsewhere; and any other establishment or operation, including homes, where food is processed, prepared, stored, served, or provided for the public for charge.” Currently struck-out sections of the draft would expand coverage to  single use personal care containers in lodging establishments as well.

Beyond the focus on take-out and single-use food and drink containers, the ordinance also seeks to have all dine-in establishments focus on using dishwashable and reusable service ware and utensils wherever possible, and to also encourage the creation of local recycling and composting facilities.

There is a great sense of urgency surrounding the ordinance, as at the State level, wheels are turning in ways that could preempt local legislation, so Council intends, “to adopt reasonable regulations on this topic prior to July 1, 2021 to ensure that these new regulations are not preempted by state law, including as relates to enacting “an ordinance to reduce pollution from single-use food service products by requiring affirmation that a customer wants single-use food service products from the customer of the food service business or other retail establishment,” as set forth in Section 11(5) of E2SSB 5022“.

Tonight’s discussion should lead to an updated version of the ordinance that will become available to the public on Friday (June 18th) at the link below. At that point, all of us who are watching the progress intently should read, digest and respond, either by email to council members (direct contact information for each one can be found on the COBI website) or by standing up at public comment next Tuesday evening (June 22)…


Click to peruse the initial draft of the plastics ordinance – 2021-18.

Watch tonight (June 15)’s City Council Study Session live via Zoom from 6pm onwards (or any time on demand)

Watch for the revised version of the Ordinance to be published in the 6/22 Agenda Packet on Friday 6/18

Prepare for the upcoming City Council Regular Business Meeting on Tuesday, June 22.