In October 2016 the San Juan County Council unanimously approved an ordinance banning the use of single-use plastic shopping bags.
A significant source of litter, plastic bags are especially harmful in a marine environment, as they are commonly mistaken as food by ocean life.
Single-use plastic bags less than 2.25 mil. thick will be prohibited at point-of-sale. Plastic bags used by consumers inside stores to package bulk items and produce will still be permitted.
The ordinance regulating the distribution of single-use carryout bags in retail establishments is effective for businesses on all islands and will take effect on May 1, 2017.
Large paper bags are also regulated under the new ordinance. They must have a minimum of 40% post-consumer recycled fiber and must be labeled as so.
Although Orcas Island establishments are ahead of the curve when it comes to single-use plastic bag distribution, some might have to evaluate the paper bags they are using.
Island Market, Orcas Food Coop, and Orcas Village Store do not currently offer single-use plastic at check-out, nor do Ray’s Pharmacy, Country Corner and many other businesses. The very few stores that do are moving away from them in preparation for the ban.
While the ban covers all of San Juan County, it does not cover the Town of Friday Harbor. The Town is currently considering a ban of its own that closely resembles the County ordinance.
You can do your part to get onboard with the plastic bag ban today by remembering to bring your reusable bags anytime you go shopping (not just grocery shopping!). It’s a good idea to keep the bags in your car at all times, so they’re always at hand.