State single-use plastic bag ban took effect Oct. 1

BYOB: Bring Your Own Bag

Shoppers have the option to bring their own reusable bags or purchase law-compliant bags from stores for eight (8) cents per bag. Mike Maltais/QCH

BREWSTER – Those single-use plastic bags that Washington shoppers became accustomed to at grocery stores and other retail checkouts are now a thing of the past effective Oct. 1, when a new state bag ban law took effect forbidding their use.
Shoppers now have the option to bring their own reusable bags or purchase law-compliant bags from stores for eight (8) cents per bag. The fee is not a tax and helps merchants recover the cost of providing the more expensive durable reusable bags and incentivizes shoppers to bring their own.
A Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) media release encourages customers “to bring their own reusable bags to carry out their purchases. Just make sure those reusable bags are clean and in good condition.”
“The businesses this law affects are required to allow customers to use their own bags,” said Laurie Davie, DOE’s Solid Waste Management Program Manager. “If a merchant doesn’t want its employees handling customers’ reusable bags, it can implement a policy requiring them to bag their own purchases when customers bring their own.”
Compliant reusable paper and plastic bags must be manufactured from a minimum 40 percent recycled material for the former and 20 percent for the latter. Plastic bags must be compostable and at least 2.25 millimeters thick.
There are exceptions allowing single-use film packaging for meat and produce, bags for bulk items, packaged bags for trash, pet waste, sandwiches, and the like, film bags for newspapers, prescriptions, dry cleaning, etc. There are also bag fee waivers for food banks and food stamp recipients, and other government food assistance.
Senate Bill 5323 bill outlawing single-use plastic bags was signed by Gov. Jay Inslee in March 2020 and was originally scheduled to take effect in January 2021. Inslee delayed the single-use bag implementation in December 2020 with an emergency proclamation that cited COVID-19 mandates affecting availability of compliant bags. The Governor rescinded that proclamation last July allowing the ban to take effect this month.
“Plastic bags are a source of pollution that threatens human health, wildlife, and the environment,” said the DOE release. “They are also a major contaminant in Washington’s recycling system that clod sorting machines and put worker safety at risk.”
DOE said reducing single bag use will protect state waterways, improve recycling system efficiency and “contribute to a growing culture of waste reduction and reuse.”
Shoppers in stores around the area appear to be taking the new ban in stride more readily than complying with mask mandates.
Avis Christensen, Administrative Assistant and Human Resources Manager at Brewster Marketplace said store staff have only had the occasional comment regarding the new ban.
“They know we’re not responsible for the requirement,” Christensen said.
The store’s checkout stands also display signage explaining the state’s policy and shopper options.
A cashier at Omak Safeway’s 20-items-or-less checkout counter was heard asking shoppers if they wanted a bag before adding the bag charge. Self-checkout screens at Omak Walmart request shoppers at the end of scanning items to enter the number of bags they used before calculating the bag charge and allowing the purchase to proceed.

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