Get your canvas tote bags ready. Washington state’s ban on single-use plastic bags takes effect Friday.
Certain carryout bags will be permitted, such as large paper bags and thick reusable plastic bags, but will cost customers an 8-cent fee per bag. The bags must be made with a certain amount of recycled content, and green or brown compostable bags are also allowed for use.
The Washington Legislature passed the statewide ban during the 2020 legislative session, but its implementation was delayed due to the pandemic. The Department of Ecology says the ban will reduce contamination in recycling and compost systems and promote the use of recycled goods.
The ban is intended to encourage customers to bring and reuse their own bags when shopping.
Local bans are already in place in cities in Washington, including Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma and Edmonds. The new state requirements will override local laws, to create consistent policy and fees across the state.
Who is banned from using single-use plastic bags?
All retail, grocery and convenience stores as well as restaurants, temporary stores or events where food or goods are sold.
There are exceptions for consumer bulk items, produce, frozen food, meat, flowers and potted plants, prepared food or bakery items and prescription drugs.
Also exempt from the plastic ban: newspaper bags, envelopes, door hangers, dry-cleaning bags and bags sold in packages for food storage, garbage or pet waste. Small paper bags can also be supplied without a cost to the customer, though they also must be made up of a certain amount of recycled contents.
The plastic bag ban also does not apply to food banks and customers purchasing items using a food assistance program.
How is this being enforced?
The Department of Ecology said it will have a reporting form starting Oct. 1, where any person can report a business. The department says it intends to seek voluntary compliance, though businesses that repeatedly violate the rule may face a $250 fine.
Businesses are allowed to use up their existing inventories of plastic bags, though the Department of Ecology says they may need to provide invoices to prove they were purchased before Oct. 1.
Where does the money go?
Businesses will collect and keep bag fees to cover the cost of providing the bags. The charge is taxable and businesses are not allow to cover the cost of the bags for the customer. Businesses are allowed to charge more than 8 cents per bag.
Are there requirements for the bags that are allowed?
Yes. Thick plastic bags must be a certain thickness and contain a minimum of 20% post-consumer recycled content until July 1, 2022. After that date, the bags must be made from 40% recycled content.
Paper bags must be made of 40% recycled content. Both plastic and paper bags must be labeled as “reusable.”
Compostable film bags must meet the requirements outlined by the state Legislature. However, the Department of Ecology does not recommend the use of compostable bags since most facilities do not accept them.
There are no restrictions on what kinds of bags customers can bring and reuse.