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No, Washington's plastic bag ban does not go into effect Friday

The law bans retailers from using single-use plastic bags. It would have started on January 1, but the governor put it on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

WASHINGTON — There have been reports of some retail stores in Washington state alerting customers they will be charged 8 cents for each bag starting Friday, June 11, as part of the statewide plastic bag ban.

But the plastic bag ban was paused in December 2020 due to the pandemic. So to clear up the confusion, we set out to verify when the statewide ban actually goes into effect.

THE QUESTION

When does the statewide ban actually go into effect?

THE SOURCES

  • Washington State Department of Ecology
  • Gov. Jay Inslee's Office

WHAT WE FOUND

The law passed during the 2020 legislative session bans retailers from using single-use plastic bags. It would have started January 1, 2021, but Gov. Jay Inslee put it on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Inslee's office confirmed the ban and fees would not go into effect until the coronavirus state of emergency is lifted or until the proclamation is reversed.

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"If the ban had gone into effect January 1 as planned, there would have been a six-month grace period during which businesses could use up existing inventories of plastic bags, and that was set to expire on June 11, 2021," explained Shannon Jones, the material coordinator for the Washington Department of Ecology, which oversees the implementation of the new law. "So, it's possible that date somehow got mixed up."

Jones said the state has not set a date to begin enforcing the ban, but retailers don't have to wait.

"[Retailers] do have the option to charge for any amount that they choose for bags," explained Jones. "We know there were some significant supply chain shortages of bags over the pandemic, and that's actually what caused the delay. So, it may be that businesses need to charge in order to recoup some of that cost."

The 8-cent fee shows up as a tax, but, for now, the money goes directly back to the businesses.

Jones added that retailers are encouraged to start allowing reusable bags, but businesses are not required to do so until the ban takes effect.

"Just to get customers used to it, start promoting, bringing your own reusable bag," said Jones.

Some Washingtonians have reported already seeing discrepancies with bag policies at different stores.

Jones said during this transition each business can determine its own approach. But once the ban is in place, stores will be required to allow customers to bring clean, reusable bags.

THE ANSWER

We can verify Washington's plastic bag ban has not taken effect yet, but shoppers could start paying fees as soon as Friday, June 11.