OLYMPIA, Washington – “Paper or plastic?” It’s a question grocers might not be asking much longer.
Rep. Strom Peterson (D-Edmonds) plans to introduce a bill to the state House of Representatives aimed at reducing pollution from plastic bags by establishing minimum state standards for the use of carryout bags at retail establishments. Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island) plans to introduce a version of the bill to the state Senate.
The bill, according to information from Peterson’s office, builds on local ordinances. It would prohibit single-use plastic carryout bags and would require a charge of 10 cents on all paper carryout bags to encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable bags.
The bill would require the use of recycled-content bags and requires that “compostable” bags be green or brown tinted to reduce confusion by consumers.
“We use these plastic bags for a few minutes and then discard them,” a statement from Peterson’s office reads. “Only six percent ever get recycled.”
The bill states that single-use plastic bags are one of the most commonly-found items littering state roads, beaches and other public spaces. Bags are a major contamination problem in recyclables bales and in commercial compost. Bags clog recycling equipment by wrapping around large rollers in the system. Workers have to go in and do the dangerous work of cutting the bags off the equipment for at least 20 minutes per eight-hour shift.
Twenty-three local jurisdictions, representing roughly 33 percent of Washington’s population, have passed ordinances regulating single-use, plastic, carry-home bags.