Beginning Oct. 1, 2021, a statewide ban of single-use plastic bags will go into effect in Washington. Here’s what you need to know.
People in Washington use two billion single-use plastic bags every year, according to the Department of Ecology. Those single-use plastic bags are a major contaminant of Washington’s rivers, streams, roads and basically everything else, according to the department.
The single-use bags contain toxic chemicals that are released into the environment if not properly disposed. Due to their thin construction, single-use bags are difficult to recycle, meaning many end up in landfills or worse.
In order to combat the negative effects of this pollution on the environment, the Legislature decided to ban single use plastic bags in 2020. COVID-19 disrupted the supply chain for alternative bags, so Gov. Jay Inslee delayed the implementation of the ban until Oct. 1, 2021.
So starting Oct. 1, restaurants, grocery stores and other retailers will no longer be allowed to use single-use bags, according to the Department of Ecology. Instead, businesses will be required to charge an 8-cent fee for reusable plastic bags and recycled paper bags. Another option for businesses is to use brown or green “compostable” plastic bags for an optional fee.
The reusable plastic bags must be at least 2.25 millimeters or about ninety-thousandths of an inch thick, and must be made of at least 20% recycled materials. The paper bags must be made of at least 40% recycled material.
The 8-cent fee won’t be applied to customers who use food vouchers such as SNAP and WIC. The ban does not apply to single-use plastic bags used for produce, baked or prepared foods, flowers, plants or meat, according to the Department of Ecology.
Shoppers can also bring their own reusable grocery bags instead of using a paper or reusable plastic bag.