Counting down to bag ban: State law against single-use plastic bags kicks in Friday

·3 min read

Sep. 29—MOSES LAKE — Shopping is going to get a little more complicated — and perhaps annoying — as the state's ban on single-use plastic bags comes into effect on Friday.

According to a press release for the Department of Ecology, as of Oct. 1, retailers, restaurants, grocery stores and temporary sellers will no longer be allowed to give "single-use plastic carryout bags" to customers to carry their purchases.

Retailers will be required to charge customers 8 cents per bag to help them recoup the cost of more durable, reusable and legally compliant bags. The charge is not a tax, the press release said, and is kept entirely by the merchant as a way to recoup the costs of providing legal bags.

Single-use bags will still be allowed for meat and produce, prescriptions and dry cleaning, and will still be sold in stores to line trash cans, carry sandwiches and pick up dog waste, the Ecology release said.

But it means if you're going shopping, you'll need to remember to bring a bag with you. Or pay extra.

"We've not seen much demand yet, but the ban doesn't go into effect until Friday," said Alicia West, store manager at Settler's Natural Market in downtown Moses Lake, 118 W. Third Ave., on Tuesday.

West said Settler's sells reusable bags, some of which are made from recycled plastic water bottles and can be compressed into tiny little carry sacks, from $7 to around $12 for the larger bags.

They're a little expensive, West said, adding that Settler's hopes to be able to lower the price if it can sell more.

"We are looking into buying in bigger quantities, because they're going to be popular now," she said. "We could get a break on the price and offer them more competitively."

Other retailers likewise have been introducing various designs of reusable bags as the effective date for Washington's new law approached.

In its press release, Ecology noted single-use plastic bags are "a source of pollution that threatens human health, wildlife and the environment," and that the state's recycling system is cluttered with plastic bags that can clog up sorting machines and threaten worker safety.

"Reducing their use will protect the state's rivers and streams, help its recycling system run more efficiently, and contribute to a growing culture of waste reduction and reuse," the press release said.

The law was originally set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021, but the coronavirus pandemic caused a delay. Gov. Jay Inslee on Dec. 18, 2020, ordered implementation of the law delayed under his declared state of emergency. Reasons given for the governor's proclamation included: increased demand for paper and thicker plastic bags, due to increased demand for takeout and groceries; retailers asking customers not to bring bags from home, to protect workers; and manufacturers switching their facilities from thick plastic bags to hospital gowns and other personal protective equipment, states the governor's website.

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