Single-use plastic bag ban begins October 1 in WA

Washington bans single-use plastic bags

begins October 1, 2021, after a 9-month period due

in the COVID-19 emergency room.

Washingtonians will begin to see fewer plastic bags littering state roads, parks and streams starting October 1, when the statewide plastic bag ban goes into effect. The bag ban prohibits the distribution of single-use plastic take-out bags by restaurants, retailers, small vendors and grocery stores.

The ban was originally scheduled to begin on January 1, 2021, but the limited availability of compliant bags prompted Gov. Jay Inslee to delay it with a proclamation. The proclamation was recently rescinded.

“Single-use plastic bags are not easily recyclable, making their end-of-life management almost impossible,” said Laurie Davies, solid waste management program manager at Ecology. “Reducing their use will protect our rivers and streams and help our recycling system run more efficiently. “

Plastic bags are a common form of pollution that threatens human health, wildlife and the environment. Harmful chemicals are released when plastics are produced, used, incinerated, or slowly disintegrate into microscopic particles. Plastic bags are also a major contaminant in Washington’s recycling system that clogs sorting machines and endangers worker safety.

BYOB – Bring your own bag

Ecology recommends that people invest in reusable bags for grocery shopping or for taking out food from restaurants. Like any reusable item, reusable bags should be washed and stored properly after each use.

If customers choose to use compliant plastic or paper bags offered by a merchant, the law requires the company to charge 8 cents per bag. This 8-cent royalty is not a tax; this is a sale that is fully retained by the merchant to encourage customers to bring their own bags and to recoup the costs of the most durable compliant bags.

Food banks and pantries, as well as people receiving food stamps, WICs, SNAPs or any other government assistance are not subject to the 8 cent fee. Some single-use plastic bags are exempt from the law, including plastics for wrapping meats and products, prescription bags, and newspaper or dry cleaning bags.

Accessible toolkits

available in 17 languages

Ecology is all about education and communication with business owners. Helping all Washingtonians understand the important details of the new law will benefit stores and customers, and ease the statewide transition to reusable bags. This is why Ecology and its partners have developed an awareness toolbox formatted for accessibility and available in 17 languages.

Toolkits include a variety of customizable materials for restaurants and individual retailers, including flyers, Bring your own bag and outlets signs, and web graphics. They are available for download in PDF and InDesign formats so they can be personalized, printed and shared by businesses and local governments.

Visit ecology.wa.gov/bag-ban for more information, tools and resources, and a complete list of requirements for Washington State’s ban on single-use plastic bags.

Efforts to reduce

single-use plastics

The Washington legislature has focused on reducing the use of single-use plastics in the state for several years. In 2021, a new law to do just that was passed. Ecology implements the new law. It will increase the recycled content in bottles and garbage bags and stimulate the development of new markets for Washington’s recyclable plastic.


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