TACOMA — When the state’s ban on single-use plastic bags takes effect Oct. 1, another type of bag will be affected, too.
You’ll be charged for using a store’s paper bags if you choose to use them.
Many bag bans were paused last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, and stores asked people to leave the reusable bags at home for fears of spreading the virus.
The state Department of Ecology issued a reminder this week: “The bag ban prohibits the distribution of single-use plastic carry-out bags by restaurants, retail, small vendor and grocery stores. The ban was originally scheduled to begin Jan. 1, 2021, but the limited availability of compliant bags prompted Gov. Jay Inslee to delay it through a proclamation.”
That proclamation recently was rescinded, and now it’s full-steam ahead to reduce plastic consumption.
The Legislature passed a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags during the 2020 legislative session.
Recycling single-use plastic bags has turned out not to be easy. The bags clog sorting machines and break down into tiny particles, harming the environment. All of that “makes managing them at the end of their lives almost impossible,” said Laurie Davies, manager of Ecology’s Solid Waste Management Program in the Ecology news release. “Reducing their use will protect our rivers and streams, and help our recycling system run more efficiently.”
That said, the challenge of introducing the ban statewide is something with which Tacoma is already familiar since it introduced its own version in 2017.
The new ban means that if you want to use a grocer’s bags, compliant plastic or paper, “The law requires the business to charge 8 cents per bag. That 8-cent charge is not a tax; it is a sale kept entirely by the merchant to provide an incentive for customers to bring their own bags and to recoup the costs for the more durable compliant bags,” according to Ecology.
That will affect another pandemic trend: curbside pickup, where retailers go ahead and bag up groceries ahead of time with however many bags they choose to use.
Dave Bennett, communications manager with the Solid Waste Management Program of the state Department of Ecology, told The News Tribune in response to questions: “There is no exemption for curbside pickup.”
According to the law, “It is a violation ... for any retail establishment to pay or otherwise reimburse a customer for any portion of the pass-through charge,” although there are exceptions.
Ecology, in its news release, noted: “Food banks and pantries, and individuals receiving food stamps, WIC, SNAP or other government assistance are not subject to the 8-cent charge.”
Additionally, “Some single-use plastic bags are exempt from the law, including plastics to wrap meats and produce, bags for prescriptions, and newspaper or dry-cleaning bags.”