Plastic bag in the windImage: Tom Twigg/GristIn the end, elections always come down to numbers. In the case of Seattle’s Aug. 18 primary — a vote that would decide whether the city would adopt a 20-cent fee for paper and plastic bags at local stores — the most important number turned out to be not the 20 cents nor the number of votes against, but the amount of money spent on the anti-fee campaign by plastic industry lobbyists.

That number is $1.4 million … or about 7 million disposable bags at two dimes a piece. Enough, apparently, to defeat the measure by a hefty margin with more than half of the (all mail-in) ballots counted.

In comparison, the pro-bag camp raised just $80,000, and they knew they faced a tough fight, said Heather Trim of People for Puget Sound and the Green Bag Campaign.

Still, Trim is happy with the amount of media attention the issue garnered in the run-up to the vote and says it has inspired more people to bring their own bags. “We’ve had a huge surge of awareness,” she said. “This is only going to help.”

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For more on the BYOBag debate, see our rundown of disposable-bag restrictions around the world and our list of alternatives from fanny packs to lunch tins.