OLYMPIA: Yesterday, the House Environment and Energy Committee voted to advance the Reusable Bag Bill, HB 1205, which will reduce plastic pollution in Washington by banning single-use plastic bags at all stores. This follows on the heels of the Senate Energy, Environment and Technology Committee passing the companion bill, SB 5323, on January 31. A hearing for the senate version was held in the Ways in Means Committee yesterday.
“I am so glad that the Reusable Bag Bill is moving forward and getting closer to becoming a reality,” said Rep. Strom Peterson, the prime sponsor in the House. “Reducing carryout plastic bags will make a real difference for the health of our waterways, ocean, and communities.”
Plastic has been documented in hundreds of species of marine life, including gray whales found washed up on the shores of the Salish Sea, 86% of all sea turtle species, 44% of all seabird species, and 43% of all marine mammal species. Ingesting these fragments is often fatal.
“This bill will encourage people to bring their own reusable bags to the store,” said Sen. Mona Das, the prime sponsor in the Senate. “There is tremendous public support for reducing single-use plastics and this bill is a major step toward that goal.”
“In our beach cleanups, we have collected thousands of pounds of marine debris, the majority of which is plastic,” said Gus Gates, Washington Policy Manager for the Surfrider Foundation. “If a bathtub is overflowing, the first thing to do is turn off the valve. The Reusable Bag Bill enables us to reduce marine debris by tackling the problem right at the source.”
“Plastic bags, which resemble jellyfish, are the most commonly found synthetic item in sea turtles’ stomachs,” said Dr. Erin Meyer, Director of Conservation Programs and Partnerships, Seattle Aquarium. “Ocean plastics are ingested by whales, fish, and even plankton, which can lead to gut obstruction and starvation.”
“Single-use carryout plastic bags produce litter in our communities, impact wildlife in our rivers and marine waters and contaminate our commercial compost” said Heather Trim, Executive Director, Zero Waste Washington. “It’s also expensive for recycling centers to remove plastic films from their machinery. This bill will save money.”
Under the bill, retailers can offer 40% post-consumer content recycled paper bags or thicker 3 mil reusable plastic bags, with a minimum 10 cent pass-through charge that offsets their cost of providing those alternative bags. This charge helps motivate people to remember to bring their own bags. Participants in food assistance programs are exempt from the pass-through charge.
“The ten-cent pass through charge is important to ensure all retail grocery stores are able to transition to paper from plastic,” noted Holly Chisa, Northwest Grocery Association. “Paper bags cost the small stores about 10 cents to provide to their customers. And having a statewide standard helps both our customers and our employees across Washington.”
Jan Gee, President and CEO of the Washington Food Industry Association, continued, “The residents of our state have spoken by supporting their local city and county governments to pass ordinances regulating single use plastic bags. These bills will preserve the previous actions of the residents in 27 local areas and promote the policy statewide in a consistent manner.”
“Nothing we use for a few minutes should be allowed to pollute our oceans and rivers and threaten wildlife for centuries,” said Bruce Speight, Executive Director of Environment Washington. “Ordinances to reduce plastic have already been shown to work in many local communities across Washington as well as in other states; it’s time for statewide action in Washington State to reduce plastic pollution."
“More and more of the petroleum is going to produce plastics,” said Chris Wilke, Executive Director, Puget Soundkeeper. “Not only do plastic bags contain toxic petrochemicals, but they are used only briefly and then persist in our environment for centuries. This bill will help us keep pollution out of Puget Sound and all waterways in Washington.”
This legislation is one of four priorities for the Environmental Priorities Coalition in 2019.
The Reusable Bag Bill is supported by a partnership of organizations:
Environment Washington is a citizen-based environmental advocacy project combining independent research, practical ideas and tough-minded advocacy.
Puget Soundkeeper’s mission is to protect and preserve the waters of Puget Sound.
Seattle Aquarium inspires conservation and takes action for our marine environment.
Surfrider Foundation is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world's ocean, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network.
Zero Waste Washington protects people and our natural world by advocating for products designed and produced to be healthy, safe, and continually recycled and reused.