Kathy Johnson, a checker at Sequim QFC, helps Jack Guinn purchase his groceries on March 18. Starting April 1, QFC will no longer offer plastic bags at checkout stands to customers. Guinn said he’s been in the habit of using reusable bags since his former home of Shoreline banned the bags. Currently, no ban is proposed in Sequim. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

Kathy Johnson, a checker at Sequim QFC, helps Jack Guinn purchase his groceries on March 18. Starting April 1, QFC will no longer offer plastic bags at checkout stands to customers. Guinn said he’s been in the habit of using reusable bags since his former home of Shoreline banned the bags. Currently, no ban is proposed in Sequim. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

QFC stops offering single-use plastic bags April 1

As of April 1, Sequim’s QFC at 990 E. Washington St., joins a company-wide campaign to stop using single-use carry-out plastic bags at its registers.

Store manager Jeff Lundstrom said the decision was made by its parent company Kroger under the program called Zero Hunger/Zero Waste.

“We’re trying to reduce the amount of stuff we put in landfills,” he said. “We know plastic bags are a big part of that.”

So that means checkers will offer paper bags with handles at no cost or offer reusable bags for sale, Lundstrom said.

“The way we’re going, we’ll be out of (plastic bags) before (April 1),” he said, after opting not to order more plastic bags weeks ago.

For many customers, the change might be moot, with Lundstrom estimating at least half of their customers bring in reusable bags anyway.

Customer Jack Guinn, a Sequim resident for four years, said he’s been in the habit of using cloth bags since his former home in the City of Shoreline banned plastic bags in early 2014.

“I’ve gotten used to doing it,” he said.

Sequim’s QFC will continue to offer plastic bags for produce and meat, Lundstrom said.

However, another part of QFC’s Zero Hunger/Zero Waste program, he said, includes donating to Food Lifeline five days a week, which supports agencies like the Sequim Food Bank to prevent more food waste.

“Technically, it started in 2018, but we’ve been partnering for years,” Lundstrom said. “They pick up anything we can reasonably give away.”

Ban discussions

QFC is moving forward without a ban in place of single-use plastic carry-out bags enforced by the City of Sequim.

City councilors haven’t voted on any plastic bag ordinances but did give the OK for councilor Jennifer States to vote in favor of a bag ban recommendation from the Solid Waste Advisory Committee to Clallam County commissioners last May. The recommendation would have been modeled after the City of Port Angeles’ ordinance, which banned certain plastic bags last year.

Commissioners tabled discussions last year, so plastic bags remain allowed in unincorporated Clallam County.

City Manager Charlie Bush said city staff continue to monitor what’s happening in the state Legislature in Senate Bill 5323 that could ban single-use carry-out bags statewide at retailers. In the potential bill, retailers would charge 10 cents per bag, including for recycled paper and plastic bags, starting in 2020 to encourage people to bring their own bags and cut down on pollution.

Bush said city councilors “directed staff to send a letter to our state Legislature encouraging a bill to ban plastic bags.”

If the bill doesn’t pass, he said there would be more community discussion to determine a direction for the city.

“For now, we’re in wait and see mode,” Bush said.

Both State Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D- Sequim, and State Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, previously told the Peninsula Daily News they support a ban on plastic carry-out bags.

Co-owner Mitch Hebert of Sequim’s Grocery Outlet places biodegradable bags at the end of a check stand for customers to purchase. The business charges 15 cents per bag as an alternative to plastic, single-use carry-out bags, which the business also offers for free. Hebert said, if customers put a value on their bags, they’re more likely to reuse them. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

Co-owner Mitch Hebert of Sequim’s Grocery Outlet places biodegradable bags at the end of a check stand for customers to purchase. The business charges 15 cents per bag as an alternative to plastic, single-use carry-out bags, which the business also offers for free. Hebert said, if customers put a value on their bags, they’re more likely to reuse them. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

Grocers’ efforts

Tiffany Wilson, director of communications for Walmart, said “Walmart is aware of the legislation and will be ready to comply with any new laws,” including at the Sequim Walmart at 1284 W. Washington St.

In February, Walmart announced plans to reduce plastic waste in more than 30,000 of its private branded items.

Some of the company’s goals, include plans to:

• Seek 100-percent recyclable, reusable or industrially compostable packaging for its private brand packaging by 2025.

• Target at least 20 percent post-consumer recycled content in private brand packaging by 2025.

Walmart spokesmen said the company looks to offer low-cost, high-quality alternatives for plastic straws, cutlery and disposable tabletops, recycle shrink wrap and provide in-store plastic bag and film recycling bins for customers.

At Grocery Outlet, 1045 W. Washington St., owner Mitch Hebert said he’s waiting to see what happens with a potential bag ban.

“We’ll do whatever the state and/or city says,” he said.

For now, his store’s checkers offer single-use carry-out bags and paper bags for free and reusable bags for 15 cents each.

“If they put a value on it, customers are more likely to reuse them,” Hebert said.

He said at least a quarter of his customers prefer the reusable bags that have been in stock for about a year. The reusable bags follow California’s guidelines for reusable bags and are durable and biodegradable, Hebert said.

He views the new bags as an alternative to “just being part of the problem.”

His store also is working on a line of cloth bags, but he said it’s important for people to remember to clean the bags regularly before putting sensitive items like produce in them at the register.

Store manager Jeremy Buggy at Nash’s Organic Produce’s Farm Store, 4681 Sequim-Dungeness Way, said the only plastic bags the store purchases are for bulk foods and produce but they are biodegradable.

“We do our best to stay away from plastic,” he said.

Buggy estimates about three-fourths of their customers bring their own bags and/or jars into the store and if they don’t, then checkers offer cardboard boxes.

Nash’s doesn’t charge for its plastic bags, but Buggy said he wishes they did.

“Then people would think about using them,” he said. “We do have quite a few customers who bring in their own mesh bags or bread bags.”

At Sunny Farms Country Store, 261461 US Highway 101, general manager Todd Thomas said they prefer customers use paper but they offer plastic bags and reusable cloth bags for sale.

“We’re making some efforts and experimenting with some packaging for things (like steaks) that biodegrades faster in hot compost material than Styrofoam would in a landfill,” he said.

Sunny Farms staff have been using it for about four months, Thomas said, and it’s not holding up quite as strongly as they’d like but they’re going to continue using it while seeking alternative materials for their packaging.

Some of those items include recyclable cups and biodegradable cutlery, he said.

As for the changes in packaging, Thomas said, “the writing is on the wall.”

“Hopefully, we can continue to go away from packaging ending up in the landfills,” he said.

A spokesman for Safeway could not be reached by press time.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

In recent months, Sunny Farms Country Store switched to new containers for meat and other products. General manager Todd Thomas said the material breaks down faster in hot compost compared to Styrofoam in landfills and that staff continue to look into other methods for the store’s packaging options. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

In recent months, Sunny Farms Country Store switched to new containers for meat and other products. General manager Todd Thomas said the material breaks down faster in hot compost compared to Styrofoam in landfills and that staff continue to look into other methods for the store’s packaging options. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

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