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King County will no longer accept plastic bags, wraps in recycling starting next year

Customers will have to take plastic bags and wraps to a drop-off location or put them in the garbage starting in January 2020.

SEATTLE — The city of Seattle and King County will no longer accept plastic bags and plastic wrap in curbside recycling in the new year.

King County announced the changes Thursday, saying in part that plastic bags and wrap are often wet or have food waste on them, which contaminates the other recyclables.

Beginning January 1, 2020, customers will be asked to take plastic bags and wraps to a drop-off location for re-manufacturing or put them in the garbage.

“Our goal is to ensure what goes into the recycling cart gets recycled at its highest value. We want everyone to Recycle Right,” noted Jeff Fowler, Seattle Public Utilities Solid Waste Deputy Director. “Removing plastic bags and wrap from our curbside recycling mix will have a positive impact on the quality of our other recyclable materials and the efficiency of the facilities that process those materials.”

County officials said plastic wrap and bags can jam sorting and processing equipment at recycling facilities, which can lead to frequent shutdowns so workers can remove the tangled materials. 

RELATED: Burien joins growing list of Northwest cities to ban plastic bags

While throwing plastic bags and wrap in the garbage is the least desirable action, it’s better to toss them out rather than contaminate other recyclables, officials said.

“Recycling is one of the best ways to protect the environment and fight climate change, but to make it work we have to do it right,” said King County Solid Waste Division Director Pat McLaughlin. “Keeping problem items out of our bins at home will save money because we won’t have to throw out good recyclable materials that get contaminated from dirty plastic bags.”

The changes were recommended by a task force of city, county and solid waste industry representatives that was established to research improvements that could be made to the recycling system following China’s change in allowable levels of contamination in bundled recyclables.

Customers can find information about plastic bag drop-off locations and other plastic recycling facts here.

RELATED: Bellevue teen recycles thousands of tennis balls