A ban on single-use plastic bags across Washington state intended to encourage customers of retailers, markets, and grocery stores to use their own reusable bags when shopping took effect on Oct. 1.
The ban passed the state Senate in March 2019, and it was originally scheduled to begin at the beginning of 2021, but it was delayed due to supply chain issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On July 13, Gov. Jay Inslee rescinded the proclamation and set the single-use plastic bag ban effective date for Oct. 1.
While the measure prohibits single-use plastic bags in all retail and grocery stores, restaurants, takeout establishments, festivals, and markets, it excludes food banks and food assistance programs; the latter is still encouraged to reduce the use of single-use plastic carryout bags when possible.
Instead, stores can order different types of bags, such as recycled content paper, wheat straw paper, or reusable plastic bags, for which customers will incur an 8-cent charge for each bag.
Such bags must meet the minimum standard of 40 percent post-consumer recycled content, 40 percent wheat straw, or a combination of the two materials equal to 40 percent, while thick reusable plastic bags must be made of at least 20 percent post-consumer recycled content, be at least 2.25 mil thick, and be labeled on the bag with these specifications, as well as with the word “reusable.”
There are exceptions for consumer bulk items, produce, frozen food, meat, flowers, potted plants, prepared food or bakery items, and prescription drugs.
Newspaper bags, envelopes, door hangers, dry-cleaning bags, and bags sold in packages for food storage, garbage, or pet waste also are exempt from the plastic ban. Stores can also sell small paper bags (smaller than 882 cubic inches), but all paper bags must meet the 40 percent post-consumer recycled content or wheat straw minimum and be labeled with the percentage on the bag.
The state’s Department of Ecology has said that the ban will reduce contamination in recycling and compost systems and promote the use of recycled content, while also “building consistency in policy and enforcement across the state” and “supporting the recycled paper industry.”
Members of the public will be able to inform authorities of any businesses that don’t cooperate with the ban via an online reporting form. Businesses that repeatedly fail to comply with the ban may face penalties of up to $250.
Local bans were already in place in cities throughout the state, including Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma, and Edmonds, The Seattle Times reported. However, the new measure overrides prior local laws.