Bye-bye single use plastic? 2019 State Legislature takes up environmental concerns

Katherine Pecora, Staff Writer

 

With solid majorities in both chambers of the Washington State Legislature, Democrats are focusing on shifting industries away from single-use plastic, such as straws and plastic bags. Starbucks made headlines last year for being one of the first companies to ban the use of plastic straws. Many counties and cities in the State of Washington have elected to set specific restrictions on single-use plastic items.

HB 1205, supported by the Washington Hospitality Association, would prohibit businesses from giving customers single-use plastic items, such as carry out bags or paper bags that do not meet the recycling requirements. Recycling requirements vary from city to city, as well as from county to county. Rep. Storm Peterson D-Edmonds, is quoted in a Seattle Times article stating: “Washington is going to be on the leading edge of reducing single-use plastics.”

The single-use plastic bag ban is one of many proposals that are currently being discussed in Olympia. Specifically, there were separate prohibitions on single-use plastic items such as straws, utensils, and plastic packaging. Lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee have made the environment the forefront of their agenda for 2019. Quoted from the Seattle Times: “We’re moving to a place where single-use plastics are recognized across Washington, and really across the world, as one of the major drivers of incredible pollution in our water quality,” said Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle. Sen. Reuven is the top Democrat in the Senate Environment, Energy, and Technology Committee, and is a co-sponsor of SB 5323.

If this bill passes, Washington would become the second state after California to ban single-use plastic bags. In 2016, California took a similar step with a voter proposition. Hawaii has had a de facto ban as the most populated counties in the state have passed one.

According to the Seattle Times, before the ban in California, plastic bags accounted for 7.4 percent of litter collected on the beaches during the state’s 201 Coastal Cleanup Day. The bill is scheduled for a public hearing on Monday Jan. 22, before the house Environmental and Energy Committee. It would be enforced on a complaint basis, and the hope is that citizens would comply through education rather than fines. Last session, lawmakers pushed the current legislation that includes a tax on consumers use of plastic bags. Here in Lacey, we as consumers are often faced with the tax when shopping at Fred Meyer or Safeway close to campus.

There are many organizations that are in favor of this ban. The Northwest Grocery Association’s lobbyist, Holly Chisa, stated to the Seattle Times that the organization is in favor of specifically the plastic bag ban, because they want a statewide standard that would make it more consistent for consumers as well as employees. Kroger Co. has already begun to voluntarily phase out plastic bags at some Washington State QFC stores, according to the Associated Press.

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