SEATTLE — Single-use plastic bags will be banned in Washington state starting October 1.
The state’s Department of Ecology (DEC) announced the date Wednesday after a proclamation in Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 state of emergency delaying the ban was rescinded.
The ban was initially supposed to take effect on Jan. 1. It officially prohibits the distribution of single-use plastic bags, the types most often used by grocery stores, retail businesses and restaurants.
“Single-use plastic bags are not easily recyclable, which makes managing them at the end of their lives almost impossible,” said Laurie Davies, manager of Ecology’s Solid Waste Management Program.
The bags, according to DEC, are a common form of pollution that threatens the health of wildlife, the environment and even humans.
When chemicals are released from the production, use, incineration and even slow decay of plastic bags, they pose a risk to organic life.
Additionally, recycling plastic bags is made difficult because they tend to be more of a contaminant in the recycling system by clogging sorting machines, which in turn puts workers at risk.
Davies believes the removal of single-use plastic bags will have a significant impact on the state’s environment and recycling system. She explained, “Reducing their use will protect our rivers and streams and help our recycling system run more efficiently.”
The DEC said that Washington residents should invest in reusable grocery bags to carry out food from restaurants and groceries from stores.
If customers choose to use compliant plastic or paper bags from a business, the ban requires that the business charge eight cents per bag, which goes back to the business as part of the sale.
Plastic bags that are exempt from the law include plastics to wrap meat and produce, bags for prescriptions and bags for newspapers and dry-cleaning.
Other efforts in the state to reduce single-use plastics also include new legislation signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on May 17 that will increase recycled content in bottles and trash bags.