By Kristine Javier

In the face of growing concerns about environmental pollution, the state legislature has banned single-use plastic. It also imposed a corresponding fee for using other types of shopping bags as of Friday, October 1, 2021.

Each year the Washington Department of Ecology (DES) estimates that about two billion single-use plastic bags are in the state. These bags are often a problem in the recycling system and carry toxic chemicals that can be harmful to the environment.

As a result, the state legislature adopted Chapter 70A.530 RCW which prohibits commercial establishments from using single-use plastic bags and allows retailers to charge corresponding fees for other types of bags at stores, restaurants, take-out establishments, festivals and markets.

The ban was approved in 2020 but temporarily suspended after Gov. Jay Inslee delayed its implementation due to a lack of supply and due to concerns about how COVID-19 is transmitted.

Bags allowed

Although single-use plastic bags are banned, the state allows other types of bags, although they are chargeable.

Some of the bags allowed include:

  • Reusable thick plastic bags: Stores are required to charge $ 0.08 for reusable bags. These bags must also indicate their thickness in mil and be labeled with the word “reusable”.
  • Large paper take-out bags: The retailer may charge a fee of $ 0.08 for bags measuring 882 cubic inches or more. These bags should be made from at least 40 percent post-consumer recycled content or wheat straw. Its percentage must also be indicated on the bag.
  • Small paper bags: Retailers are not required to charge fees on small paper bags. Much like large paper bags, they should be made from 40 percent post-consumer recycled content or wheat straw and clearly labeled with the content percentages.
  • Plastic product bag: These types of single-use plastic bags are exempt from the ban.
  • Compostable bags: The state does not recommend the use of compostable plastic bags since some commercial composting facilities do not accept compostable bags.

Many more flaws

The law allows single-use plastic bags for a wide variety of applications, including:

  • Inside the store: these include those used to package bulk items such as fruits, vegetables and grains, small hardware items like nails and bolts, or greeting cards.
  • For sanitation: these include bags used to wrap wet items such as frozen food, meat, fish, and other uses such as packaging for baked goods, prescription drugs, and potted plants.
  • Others: the exemption also covers bags used to deliver printed newspapers, postal pockets, sealed envelopes, door hanger bags, laundry / dry cleaning bags or bags sold in packages containing multiple bags for the storage of food, garbage or animal waste.

Bags prohibited

Bags of green or brown plastic products are also prohibited, except for the use of green or brown compostable bags. The state also prohibits retailers from using misleading labels such as “biodegradable”, “decomposable”, “degradable”.

Establishments that do not comply with the ban may face a fee of $ 250.

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