A bill – sponsored by first-year Sen. Mona Das (D-Kent) – was passed Tuesday (Mar. 5) by the state Senate, with a goal of reducing pollution by prohibiting retailers in Washington state from handing out single-use plastic bags.
The bill passed on a vote of 31 – 14, and now heads to the House for consideration.
Das sponsored Senate Bill 5323, which is supported by retailers as well as environmentalists.
“We’ve all seen the heartbreaking photos of animals choked by plastics, and the frightening footage of garbage islands in our ocean,” Das said. “We know this bill won’t solve the whole problem, but it’s a helpful and tangible step toward protecting our environment.”
This bill would prohibit retailers — including grocers — from handing out thin, single-use plastic bags. They would be able to provide paper bags or durable, reusable plastic bags for 8 cents each. This charge would help retailers recover the costs of the paper or durable plastic bags, and create an incentive for shoppers to bring their own bags.
People using the State Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and/or the state Food Assistance Program (FAP) would not be subject to the 8 cent fee.
These reusable bags must meet standards for strength, durability and recycled content. Shoppers who bring their own reusable bags would not be charged.
Twenty-eight jurisdictions throughout Washington state — comprising about 26 percent of Washington’s population — have already implemented plastic bag ban measures. SB 5323 is modeled after those local laws, and applies one uniform set of regulations to the state.
“Protecting our environment is one of the most important jobs we have as legislators,” Das said, “especially since the existence of climate change is questioned by some at the national level.”