Plastics Industry Misleads Seattle Residents

Posted by — July 30, 2009 6:38 pm

The American Chemistry Council must really love Bag Monsters….As part of their $1.4 million campaign against the Seattle Green Bag Fee, they recently sent out mailers to Seattlites with false claims about how the fee would impact homeless shelters and food banks. This just in:

American Chemistry Council misleads public about Food Banks, Emergency Shelters and Referendum 1

SEATTLE – As part of their $1.4 million dollar advertizing blitz in Seattle to try to defeat Referendum 1, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and their backers in the oil industry are making claims that “there are no exemptions for food banks and homeless shelters” from the bag fee when in fact, food banks are not subject to the fee at all.

The City ordinance which will be confirmed or rejected by the voters as part of the August 18 primary ballot explicitly includes four categories of stores: drug stores, groceries, supercenters, and convenience stores. All other retailers, including wholesalers of bags, are unaffected by the ordinance.

The ACC is trying to use the Food Bank issue as a wedge to convince compassionate voters in Seattle that the ordinance is unfair. The City, however, plans to use 15 cents of the 20 cents fee to provide free reusable bags to all households and significant extra quantities of bags to low and fixed income citizens, potentially with a punch card, and also for Food Banks.

City staff has said that they are prohibited from talking about their low income assistance program because it would be an ethics violations if they were perceived as trying to influence a ballot measure.

In San Francisco, where a plastic bag ban has been in place for over two years, agencies distributing groceries on behalf of the local Food Bank generally do not hand out bags, but instead the clients bring their own bags. “New food programs often give out bags at first while participants get used to bringing their own bags,” said Sean Brooks, Director of Programs, San Francisco Food Banks. “After an initial phase, the food programs no longer hand out bags, relying instead on clients to bring their own bags. Most of the food donated to Food Banks comes in boxes, bins, or barrels – rarely in bags.”

Several food banks in Seattle have already begun encouraging their clients to bring their own bags, sometimes with incentives like providing an extra food item when someone brings in their own bag. Derek Wertz, Food Bank manager, Jewish Family Service, says that he has already seen an uptick of people bringing their own bags.

He adds, “I am personally motivated to vote for Referendum 1 not only for the obvious environmental reasons, as reusable bags are far more sustainable than plastic bags are, but also for the political reasons of eliminating our co-dependency on other countries. As most plastic products are petroleum based, it makes perfect sense why the ACC would be lobbying against the fee.”

“Downtown Food Bank is doing what we can to provide reusable bags to clients and reduce use of paper and plastic bags, and we don’t anticipate that a fee on bags would have much of an impact on our program or our clients,” said Matthew Brouwer, Food Bank Manager, Pike Market Senior Center/Downtown Food Bank.

Bill Hobson, Executive Director of the Downtown Emergency Service Center of Seattle said, “From our perspective, this is misinformation from the American Chemistry Council. Homeless shelters are not negatively impacted at all.”

“People who are low income care about the environment too and will be bringing their own bags just like the rest of the city” said Sharon Lee, executive director of the Low Income Housing Institute. “As a longtime advocate for low income residents in Seattle, I am distressed that the American Chemistry Council is trying to drive a wedge between environmental issues and low income issues. It shouldn’t be a tradeoff.”

Proponents of Referedum 1, led by environmental, small business, neighborhood and civic groups, aren’t surprised by the ACC tactics.

“We knew big oil couldn’t win by simply debating the policy, so they have engaged in a misleading campaign in order to try to win this election,” said Heather Trim with People For Puget Sound. “If big oil and the chemical industry truly cared about food banks and shelters they would donate $1.4 million to provide food and supplies to them rather than to try to create a wedge issue with our Seattle voters who care both about the environment and about our low income residents.”

“They also are telling voters that big box stores, like Walmart and Fred Meyer are exempted, when the ordinance explicitly includes these stores,” said Brady Montz of the Sierra Club. “Seattle voters can send a message that our elections and commitment to human services are not for sale by voting to approve Referendum 1 on the August ballot.”

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