Western Washington Lawmaker Proposes Plastic Bag Ban

SPOKANE, Wash. - Paper or plastic? It's an age old question that Washington state legislators will sort out this session.

On Tuesday, Democratic lawmaker Joe Fitzgibbon introduced a bill that would ban plastic grocery bags statewide.

For nine decades, Cassano's Italian Grocery has been a fixture in Spokane. Owner Carl Naccarato says, "it really serves this neighborhood well."

This community grocery store mainly uses plastic bags to package customer's products but that could all change with a possible plastic bag ban.

"It just impacts us so much greater than a store that would have a huge volume," Naccarato said.

Going from plastic to paper would increase their expenses by at least $100 a month.

"It would pretty much double our cost as far as bags are concerned," Naccarato said. The extra costs would make it a little difficult for Cassano's to stay in business. "Now with the minimum wage going up it is just one more, hate to say it, nail in the coffin when you are a small operator."

But the cost isn't the only thing. Cassano's actually used to use paper bags but switched to plastic because many of their customers walk or ride bikes to the store and the plastic bags are more convenient to them.

"They could put them (plastic bags) on the handlebars on their bike or carry more than one bag in each hand," said Naccarato

Supporters of the bill say it's simply about protecting the environment.

"This isn't about taking away our freedom of choice at the grocery store it's about being good stewards of the environment and human health," Amanda Parrish with The Lands Council said.

On the other hand, Chris Cargill with the Washington Policy Center said, "this is an eco-fad where we are doing something as a state to look green but we are not really having an impact on the environment as we had hoped."

No matter if it's paper or plastic, Carl Naccarato says he'll make do.

"If we would have to do it we would certainly do it, but again it would be hard for us and hard for our customers as well."

Fitzgibbon introduced a similar measure but that died last year without a public hearing. If passed, this bill would make Washington the first state in the country to ban plastic bags.