News You Can Use (+ Re-Use): Washington state bag ban goes into effect October 1

On Friday, Oct. 1, Washington’s statewide ban on single-use plastic bags goes into effect. Here’s what that means for Washingtonians, tips, and how to report business non-compliance.

Tips & Guides

We Need to Move Beyond Plastic

Washingtonians use 2 billion bags every year, and only a small fraction end up getting recycled. Plastic bags are used for an average of 12 minutes and are then thrown out, clogging our landfills, littering our streets, polluting our waterways, and harming marine and human health.

Nothing we use for a few minutes should be able to harm our environment and health for hundreds of years.

That’s why WashPIRG supported and helped to pass the statewide ban on plastic bags in 2020. 

Starting Oct. 1, stores will not be able to give out single-use plastic bags, and an 8-cent-fee will be charged for larger paper and thick “reusable” plastic bags. This applies to grocery stores, convenience stores, restaurants, retail and more – food banks and pantries are not required to charge a fee. The 8-cent-fee is not a tax, but instead a requirement to help stores supply more durable and reusable bags, and to incentivize customers to bring their own reusable bags.

Tips for Shoppers

  • Skip a bag altogether if you’re only grabbing a few items.
  • Remember your reusable bags when you go to the store, and leave an extra bag in your car in case you forget yours heading out the door. If you forget altogether, opt for a more sustainable option, like a recyclable paper bag.
  • Clean your reusable bags regularly with warm soapy water or wipe them down with disinfecting wipes.
  • Bring a mesh bag for produce to cut down on thin-film bags that are exempt from the ban, or opt for small recyclable paper bags where available.

How to Report Non-compliance

Success in implementation of the ban relies on all of us. Beginning Oct. 1, anyone can report a business not complying with the statewide ban to the Washington State Department of Ecology

First, it’s important to understand what bags are allowed. The following table from the Washington State Department of Ecology summarizes the different kinds of bags you may encounter:

tab

tab

Furthermore, the original implementation plan allowed stores to use up their inventory of plastic bags by June. While this deadline has passed, forcing stores to throw out their inventory does not help with our plastic waste problem. So, the Department of Ecology may choose to enforce penalties to businesses on a case-by-case basis, if they can prove that plastic bags that they are handing out were purchased before the Oct. 1 implementation date.

Cleaner, Healthier Future for All

While plastic bags are just one piece of the puzzle, banning them in Washington state is a big step forward in protecting our beautiful environment and public health for years to come. WashPIRG is excited to see implementation this week, and is committed to continuing to work to move Beyond Plastic.

Authors

Nicole Walter

Advocate, WashPIRG

Nicole directs WashPIRG’s consumer and public health campaigns at the statewide level. Nicole also works with WashPIRG Student chapters at the University of Washington and the Evergreen State College to train student activists on environmental and youth voter engagement campaigns. She was previously the board chair for CALPIRG Students as a student at UC Berkeley and a campus organizer with CALPIRG Students and with WashPIRG Students. Nicole has led campaigns to help pass statewide commitments to 100 percent clean electricity and single-use plastic bag bans in both California and Washington state, and has helped run campaigns to register thousands of voters. Nicole lives in Seattle, where she enjoys hiking and exploring the Pacific Northwest.

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