Expanded Business Waste Reduction Ordinance Enters Public Discussion Stage

UPDATE: Ordinance 2021-34 was unanimously approved at the 11/09/21 council meeting, with no public comment recorded in opposition. Said City Manager Blair King at the meeting, “I’m committed as the city manager… to make it a success, based upon education and incentives and willing compliance, and not a heavy-handed enforcement method, but we will have a year to work on that.”

At City Council’s Regular Business meeting on Tuesday November 9, an updated version of the Waste Reduction Ordinance will be presented, with a series of potential changes for the Island’s food/drink and hospitality businesses to be discussed. These amendments to Chapter 8.24 of City Code are in addition to those confirmed in June regarding single-use plastics in food service ware which will take effect on January 1, 2022.

Actions are required as the Council is intending have the updated ordinance be one of the “immediate actions” of the Bainbridge Island Climate Action Plan (as set in November 2020). The Climate Action Plan is ‘a call to action for the City, local businesses, and community members [that] now it is time that we join together and do our part to make the only planet we have
a better one for our present and future generations’.

These current proposals are intended to be just a part of additional changes to the Island’s power sources, transportation, building code, and other forms of waste reduction. Those changes should be considered to work in concert with additional changes at the state level.

Bainbridge Island Greenhouse Gas Reduction Projections

The Chamber has been a part of discussions to try and balance environmental effect with business impact over the past few months (more on that below). What we know is that there is a lot to understand and a lot to think about, so the purpose of this long read article is to act as an advance primer for what will likely become headline news in the next few days. The information is being presented in a series of images and lists in an effort to make this as easily digestible as possible, and ways of providing your thoughts and feedback to City Council will also be provided.

The Proposals

In short, 4 key initiatives are currently proposed in the updated ordinance to be enacted on January 1, 2023:

  1.  Disposable plastic food service ware (utensils, cups, straws, take-out containers) should be eliminated and replaced by items that are able to be home composted.
  2. A 25c fee should be charged to any customer who wishes to use a disposable take-out cup for beverages.
  3. Reusable (ie not disposable) dishes should be used for all eat-in orders
  4. Lodging establishments should not offer any personal care items in anything other than reusable, or home compostable packaging.

Exceptions, Exemptions & Business Support

After much discussion, there is also acceptance that those initiatives will pose challenges to affected businesses and so a system of support is also being put in place to ensure that:

  • Affected businesses must have adequate time to implement changes, so none of these proposed changes will become enforceable until January 1, 2o23
  • Adequate support (financial/technical assistance and community education) – with a recommended budget of no less than $50,000 to help affected businesses.
  • The 25c fee will be collected by, and retained by each affected individual business.
  • A system of providing and publicizing clear lists of approved materials and products is launched
  • Business, Locals, and Visitors are made aware of and helped understand each of the new initiatives (and why they are needed).
  • A new system of Exceptions and Exemptions is created to:
    • Keep necessary COVID considerations in mind and restrictions in place for as long as required
    • Capture the full array of potential supply issues business owners may face in identifying and sourcing new products and materials
    • Work with businesses who do not have the ability to add/increase commercial dishwashing as desired.

Why Does Bainbridge Need To Make Changes?

Bainbridge Island Projected Sea Level Rise

The Island is expected to experience a wide range of changes and associated impacts from climate change on our hydrology, vegetation, shorelines and surrounding waters, including:

  • Rising Sea Levels
  • Extreme Weather Events
  • Increasing Temperatures
  • Vegetation Change
  • Hydrological Change (affecting groundwater, stream discharges and drought stresses)
  • Ocean Acidification

What Are COBI’s Overall Goals & Actions?

The Climate Action Plan was developed to address and combat those expected impacts, and featured community engagement via an online survey taken by over 450 community members, public meetings attended by over 150 people, and monthly Climate Change Advisory Committee meetings open to the public to provide additional input. It sets three goals for our community:

  • Reduce Bainbridge Island’s contribution to climate change by reducing our GHG emissions (mitigation)
  • Increase our Island’s resilience to climate change impacts (adaptation)
  • Engage the community to make climate change actions equitable

Those goals lead to specific required actions from COBI, including:

  1. Not allowing propane or fuel oil as a primary fuel in new developments
  2. Adopting a green building code
  3. Reducing vehicle miles traveled
  4. Reducing amount of waste landfilled.

What Are the Specific Goals Of These Proposed Initiatives?

  • To reduce the amount of plastic in our waste, and to reduce the amount of waste in our environment
  • To reduce single-use item usage wherever possible, and encourage more reusable, or at least recyclable items
  • To educate and support the business community in shifting to the use of packaging and products that can be composted without the use of industrial processes (‘home compostable’)
  • To educate consumers on the impact that their choices have on our local environment.
  • To investigate ways to make composting simpler and more accessible for both consumers and businesses.

The Process So Far:

Earlier in the year, as a first step towards a stated goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions on Bainbridge by 90%, City Council began consideration of what began as a ‘plastics’ ordinance and, after much input from both business and environmental interests, became an ongoing ‘Single-Use Food Ware & Waste Reduction’ plan.

In the end, what had been a hotly-debated issue for weeks became a pair of unanimous votes on June 22, 2021 – a 7-0 NO vote on forbidding businesses from being able to offer utensils (as of January 1, 2022) and a 7-0 YES vote on forming a task force to gather inout before moving forward on the issue of waste reduction.

The draft version of the new 2023 regulations have been proposed by that Taskforce, one that pulls together three councilmembers with volunteers from Bainbridge’s business, climate action across the course of seven extended meetings.

Representing City Council: Joe Deets, Kirsten Hytopoulos and Leslie Schneider.

Representing the food service business community: Steve Snyder (Market Director at Town & Country Bainbridge), Ashlee Redfern (Manager at Town & Country Bainbridge), Lani Sordello (Owner at Via Rosa 11)], and Stefan Goldby (President at Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce) – who are now being joined by Matt Grady (Owner of Pegasus Coffee) here in November.

Representing the climate action & zero waste community: Diane Landry (Director of Bainbridge Island Zero Waste), Nora Nickum (Ocean Policy Manager at Seattle Aquarium and former member of COBI Climate Change Advisory Committee), and Erika Shriner [Co-founder & former chair of Climate Action Bainbridge)]

Representing the waste management community: Heather Church (Owner at Bainbridge Disposal)

Representatives from the lodging community: Bonnie McBryan (Owner at Eagle Harbor Inn, Board Member Bainbridge Island Lodging and Hospitality Association) and Andrea Addington (Sales and Marketing Director at Bainbridge Island Lodging and Hospitality Association).

After a series of lively and passionate group discussions, the Taskforce submitted a set of recommendations based on a consensus around the major policy issues. Those recommendations were incorporated into an Ordinance to update Chapter 8.24 of City Code, which was then given to the City Attorney to consider. What is being presented at the Tuesday November 9 City Council Regular Business Meeting is the version recommended by the City Attorney for public comment and Council consideration.

The Chamber & The Ongoing Waste Reduction Ordinance Updates

With the guidance of our members, the Chamber led the charge to reduce the number of impacts the Waste Reduction Ordinance would have on local businesses before business leaders could communicate the practical impact of the proposed measures. As firm believers in the power of getting different interests together to try and find common ground and collaboration, we are delighted that City Council also embarked on forming a task force bringing business and environmental leaders to a round table discussion with city councilmembers.

We commend all involved parties in the open-minded approach to the process and hope that this format sets a new standard for community interaction and discussion ahead of the traditional full public process at Council meetings.

Over the past few weeks, City Manager Blair King has been running a survey of business owners on the COBI website, one that we promoted extensively in the Chamber newsletter.

We also partnered with the Downtown Association, Zero Waste, and City Staff to create a program of business ambassadors who have been out and about talking to affected businesses about the approved 2022 changes, and gathering ideas and feedback on these proposals. The intention is to create direct open dialogue as the island-wide Climate Action Plan actions are considered and enacted. The Ambassadors also distributed user-friendly poster guidelines to businesses that had not yet received them in the mail.

After extensive consultation with our members, the Chamber does back the overall goals of this proposed ordinance update. We do have some concerns about the specific initiatives proposed, but those have been addressed by the checks, balances, and support processes which were added into the proposal. We are happy to have the proposal be the starting point for wider discussion by both Council and the Bainbridge community and now welcome your input.

Your Turn

Within the Agenda for the Tuesday, November 9 meeting is the proposed draft of Ordinance 2021-34 updating Chapter 8.24 of the Bainbridge Island Municipal Code

Public Comment is actively encouraged on Tuesday and instructions on how to do so are online 

The background and notes from the Plastic & Waste Reduction Taskforce’s Recommendations are public record and offered online

Feedback can also be provided directly to all City Councilmembers via council’s shared email account, or individually via their contact info at: https://www.bainbridgewa.gov/217/City-Council

The City Manager has selected Autumn Salamack to serve as Bainbridge’s first full-time Climate Mitigation & Adaptation Officer. Autumn will help implement the goals of the Climate Action plan and serve as the staff liaison to the Climate Change Advisory Committee – Click to contact Autumn.

Your thoughts can always be shared with the Chamber team via the contact page on this website.