Sooo Bainbridge: Recycling to Save the Planet


When heading out, most of us used to take our driver’s license, keys, smart phone, comb, maybe a tissue. All items you can stuff into your pockets or a small purse.

I have found that in the interest of saving the planet from plastic waste, these days it’s best to take a backpack. You need it, and maybe also one of those small pouches that fold up into a ball, to carry most of what you buy. If you are on Bainbridge Island, make sure the backpack is roomy enough to carry your own mug, along with a napkin and reusable straws and eating utensils to avoid asking for disposable ones from a coffee shop or take out restaurant.

This isn’t just a question of how environmentally cognizant you wish to be. It’s also a question of an increasing number of municipal laws aimed at reducing waste — a good thing.

For those of us living on Bainbridge Island, and anyone who decides to visit, as of January 1 you will pay 25 cents per disposable cup if you forget to bring your own. To help spread the word and increase compliance, the city has launched a Show Us Your Mug appeal on Facebook urging everyone to post a photo « showing how you choose to reuse with #ClimateSmartBainbridge. »

Here are the full details of the new municipal ordinance. As of January 1, 2023, Bainbridge:

  • prohibits disposable plastic food service ware
  • requires reusable food service ware for on-site dining
  • requires that disposable food service ware be “home compostable”
  • prohibits the use of expanded polystyrene-based food service ware (all plastics #6 and Styrofoam) for prepared food
  • requires a 25-cent fee for disposable cups
  • encourages the use of refillable dispensers for personal care products in lodging establishments
  • prohibits the distribution of single-use personal care products not packaged in “home compostable packaging”

As one Post Alley colleague commented, « It’s very Bainbridge. » Discussion of the new ordinance has elicited dozens of comments in the Facebook Bainbridge Islanders group. People are wondering what this means for trying to order ahead of time? Would you drop your own mug off and then come back later? Will you be advised when pre-ordering that you will have to pay extra for the cup? Others wonder about the environmental impact of washing your own mug more often. So far I have seen little evidence of “mug shots” of people doing mug selfies.

Seattle also has been committed to controlling plastic waste from food establishments. As of July 1, 2018, the city prohibited the use of plastic utensils, plastic straws, and plastic cocktail picks. It later banned single-use plastic bags. The state followed suit three years later with a law that prohibited single-use plastic carryout bags in all food service businesses, including retail and grocery stores, restaurants, takeout establishments, festivals, and markets. The measure also required an $0.08 charge for all large paper bags and thick reusable plastic bags.

Another statewide restriction that took effect January 1, 2022, prohibited Washington restaurants from automatically including single-use food service items like utensils, condiments and straws with food orders. Customers can still request individual items if needed.

I recall first encountering green shopping changes when visiting Portland from the East Coast a while ago. I stopped in a store to pick up a last-minute gift and found that the store offered no bag. It was raining out, and I had to buy a bag from the store. But the bag was reusable, and I still have it.

Overall, these are little changes for us as consumers and easy enough to turn into habits. I am glad to start using my own mug. I am curious, however, to see how one of my pet peeves plays out. As a tea drinker, I have at times been surprised when charged more when ordering a larger cup size even though the cup still uses only one tea bag. I’ve been told the higher price is not for the extra hot water, but because the store pays more for the bigger cup. Now that I will be using my own cup, what will I be charged?

And for you drinkers of specialty coffees, what about those creative frothing designs the baristas make? Can they still show their artistry when filling up a traveling mug with your favorite latte? 

Linda Kramer Jenning
Linda Kramer Jenning
Linda Kramer Jenning is an independent journalist who moved to Bainbridge Island after several decades reporting from Washington, D.C. She taught journalism at Georgetown University and is former Washington editor of Glamour.


  1. Great Move, Bainbridge Island and Linda, thanks for the article. We need a lot more of this responsible behavior throughout the nation. We are drowning in plastic waste.

    • I agree…to some it might seem excessive, but maybe our deep caring in the Northwest, and kudos to Bainbridge, will help mitigate some of the world’s massive indifference.

  2. Another Bainbridge resident raised the question of what to do when you are picking up several coffees at a time for friends or coworkers? Do you need a pack of travel mugs stashed in your backpack or car? Or maybe that’s when you pay the extra 25cents.

  3. Bainbridge Island manages to remain a green oasis of grace …. even though it’s become so ridiculously high priced and the cute little cabins near the ferry terminal — I lived in one once — are all gone. I’m sure downtown Winslow residents get sick of all the visitors in summer, but if they do, they don’t show it — unfailingly kind and friendly. I’m glad they’re taking steps to keep plastic and other disposables down. Those Starbucks cups ARE recyclable; it’s just that hardly anyone bothers.

  4. Update: a man walked into a local coffee shop one morning this week and harassed the two workers over the 25-cent cup fee, making them cry. A woman responded by donating $200 so that, as she said, «  those who cannot afford or want to pay the .25 paper cup fee do not take out their anger on the amazing workers who are there early to provide our community a service. » The same woman posted on the island Facebook page to contact her if anyone needs a reusable mug because she is ordering a batch of 100 reusable coffee travel cups and is willing to share.
    Now that’s really « sooo Bainbridge ! »

    • Yes, that is Bainbridge Island, all right! It’s always been filled with people who value community and kindness; I’m glad to see that spirit hasn’t changed. If anything, it is even more. (But what nerve! As if he isn’t free to go elsewhere.)


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