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Washington single-use plastic bag ban begins Oct. 1: Here's what you need to know

The bag ban policy will apply in all retail and grocery stores, restaurants, takeout establishments, festivals, and markets.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The single-use plastic bag ban goes into effect Friday in Washington.

Starting Oct. 1, people will need to bring their own "reusable" bag while going to the store or they will be charged an 8-cent fee for a recycled one.

Paper bags must have a minimum of 40% recycled content and people are encouraged to use reusable bags made of plastic film containing 20% post-consumer recycled content.

The ban will apply in all retail and grocery stores, restaurants, takeout establishments, festivals and markets. The 8-cent charge for the paper bag fee at the store is taxable, and businesses will collect and keep the fee, to recover some of the cost of providing the bags.

The ban was planned to go into effect in the beginning of Jan. 2021, but it was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The major contaminant in Washington's facilities, waterways, roadways, and environment are plastic bags, according to State of Washington Department of Ecology website (WSDE).

“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. “Reducing their use will protect our rivers and streams, and help our recycling system run more efficiently.”  

Washington's statewide plastic bag ban is an effort to reduce plastic bag pollution, litter and waste. The ban will also benefit Washington's recycling system by promoting reuse and recycled content, supporting the recycled paper industry, and reducing contamination in the recycling and compost systems.

The single-bag ban doesn't apply to food banks and pantries, and people receiving food stamps, WIC, SNAP, or other government assistance. But those programs are encouraged to take actions to reduce the use of single-use plastic carryout bags.

Plastics to wrap meats and produce, bags for prescriptions, and newspaper or dry-cleaning bags, are exempt for the law.

Several cities in Washington that already have the single-use plastic bags ban included Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, Bremerton, Port Orchard, and Snohomish, among others.

Anyone could report a business that didn't compliance with the new law using the WSDE reporting form. The WSDE will work with the reported business to understanding the policy, but a continuous non-compliance may result in up to a $250 fine. 

Ecology recommends people invest in reusable bags for groceries or to carry out food from restaurants. Reusable bags should be washed and properly stored after each use. Businesses are encourage to display plastic bag ban signs, create promotional materials like branded reusable bags, and to direct questions to the WSDE.

For more information about the policy and what kind of bags are allowed, visit the WSDE website. 


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