The proposed bill would restrict the provision of single-use plastic carryout bags in grocery and retail stores across Washington state. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

The proposed bill would restrict the provision of single-use plastic carryout bags in grocery and retail stores across Washington state. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

Legislators seek to reduce pollution by limiting plastic bags

The law would require stores to collect 10 cents for each recycled-content paper carryout bag.

By Madeline Coats / WNPA Olympia News Bureau

OLYMPIA — Lawmakers aim to reduce pollution from plastic bags by establishing higher standards for the use of bags at retail establishments.

Substitute House Bill 1205 is co-sponsored by 16 Democratic representatives and was introduced by Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds.

The legislation restricts the provision of single-use plastic carryout bags in grocery and retail stores across Washington state. Plastic bags are made of nonrenewable resources and never biodegrade, posing a threat to animal life and the food chain, the bill states.

Single-use plastic bags cause damage to the recycling stream and place a burden on conservation goals, Peterson said at a public hearing on the substitute bill on Monday. The bill promotes environmental education, as well as good business and economic sense, he said.

SHB 1205 requires establishments to collect a pass-through charge of at least 10 cents for each recycled-content paper carryout bag to reduce waste, litter and marine pollution. The goal is not for people to pay a fee, but to remember to grab that reusable bag from the trunk, Peterson said.

“A 10-cent fee is a good market changer for a lot of consumers to really encourage them to bring their reusable bags when they go shopping,” he said.

The substitute bill clarifies that the charge may not be collected from people using electronic benefits cards or vouchers under state and federal food assistance programs.

According to the legislation, compostable film bags provided to customers by retail establishments, food banks and food assistance programs must be tinted brown or green.

Snohomish recently joined dozens of other cities in the state to adopt similar bans. Edmonds was the first place in Washington to enact this kind of law, about a decade ago. Last month the city also banned single-use, non-compostable food containers. Everett banned plastic bags in December.

The Washington Newspaper Publishers Association’s Olympia news bureau consists of student journalists and recent graduates.

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