Washington Legislature introduces bill to ban plastic bags

Olivia Alvord, Staff Writer

 

State lawmakers have proposed a bill to successfully ban one-time use plastic bags statewide. Per the Washington State Legislature website, “HB 1205’s goal is to reduce pollution from plastic bags by establishing minimum state standards for the use of bags at retail establishments.” It is currently in a House Committee awaiting its next steps. During its first read through on Jan. 16, it was referred to the House Committee on Environment and Energy, and on Jan. 21, there was a public hearing in that House Committee. There was also an executive session scheduled for Feb. 7 in the same House committee at 8:00 a.m.

This bill recognizes that Washington’s policy for waste reduction has been placed at the highest priority in the state. From House Bill 1205 Section 1, “single-use plastic carryout bags are made of nonrenewable resources and never biodegrade; instead, over time, they break down into tiny particles. Single-use plastic carryout bags, and the particles they break into, are carried into rivers, lakes, the Puget Sound, and the world’s oceans, posing a threat to animal life and the food chain…” This bill would minimize Washington’s plastic footprint and it would also reduce the amount of plants, animals, and bodies of water affected by plastic particle buildup and pollution. Another component of the bill recognizes the amount of plastic that is found on roadways, beaches, and other areas from littering. The bill points out that this is just another reason that plastics “are a drain on public resources and a burden on the environment and resource conservation goals.”

What types of bags are considered single-use plastic bags? Basically, any bag that a retail establishment has provided at the check-out, cash register, or any other place of sale. The bill also proposes alternatives to those single-use plastic bags. Reusable bags help to minimize Washington’s ecological footprint while also being a great option to shop with. Another option is one that has been carefully detailed in the House Bill 1205, section 2. This states that replacements for single-use plastic bags have to be compostable or a compostable fill bag, a recycled content paper carryout bag, or a reusable carryout bag made of cloth or other materials. Also, those bags provided in retail establishments must be approved by the Department of Ecology and meet the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) guidelines. HB 1205 states that, “alternatives to single-use plastic carryout bags are convenient, functional, widely available, and measure as superior across most environmental performance metrics.” If a retail establishment still decides to offer recycled content paper carryout bags or reusable carryout bags made of film plastic, it must collect a pass-through charge of nothing less than ten cents for each one. Additionally, the retail establishments are allowed to have reusable carryout bags for sale.

Though inconvenient for some, reusable plastic bags are more sustainable and can be used for a variety of purposes. Many of us living in Thurston County have already adjusted to this change, and it is likely only a matter of time before the rest of the state is forced to follow suit.

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