In August, the Kent City Council passed an ordinance that regulates which checkout bags – especially plastic – retailers can give customers.

This ordinance will go into effect March 1, 2020.

The council approved an ordinance banning single-use plastic bags at checkout and placing an 8¢ fee on all large paper and reusable plastic carryout bags. Retailers will keep the fees and display them on customer receipts.

As of March 1, 2020, Kent retailers will:

    • No longer provide thin plastic bags at checkout,
    • Charge customers 8¢ for each thick plastic or paper bag they request at checkout
    • Not charge customers with WIC, TANF, SNAP, or FAP benefits for thick plastic or paper bags requested at checkout.
    • Retailers will keep all fees collected at checkout but continue to provide other bags for free. These no-cost bags include plastic bags for produce, bulk products, and dry cleaning, as well as paper bags for baked goods, prescriptions, and hardware.

The ordinance will apply to any retailer that provides products to customers in carryout bags. This includes retail stores, home delivery services, vendors at farmers markets or festivals, and restaurants or cafes that sell pre-packaged items (such as bags of coffee or spice mixes).

To help retailers inform their customers about the new ordinance, the City is producing signs and till toppers in different sizes and languages. By late January, these materials will be available on the ordinance website, KentWA.gov/BringYourOwnBag. Retailers may also request printed signs by calling 253-856-5549 or emailing me at [email protected]

Here’s more info:

Which retailers will be affected?
Any retailer that provides products to customers in carryout bags. This includes retail stores, home delivery services, vendors at farmers markets or festivals, and restaurants that sell pre- packaged items (such as spice mixes).

Which carryout bags are allowed?
Large durable bags made of paper or plastic. The bags must contain at least 40% post-consumer recycled content and display the percentage of recycled content. Paper carryout bags must have a capacity of at least 1/8 barrel or 882 cubic inches, and plastic carryout bags must be at least 2.25 mils thick. Plastic carryout bags must also display wording that they are reusable.

What about small paper bags?
Small paper bags (less than 1/8 barrel or 882 cubic inches) can be distributed at checkout without a fee, but the bags must contain at least 40% post-consumer recycled paper.

Can restaurants provide thin, single-use plastic bags for takeout food?
Yes. To protect public health and safety, restaurants or grocery delis may provide these bags at no cost to cover unwrapped food.

Which bags are subject to the 8¢ fee?
Large paper carryout bags (1/8 barrel or 882 cubic inches) and durable plastic bags at least 2.25 mils thick.

Who receives the fees?
Retailers will keep the 8¢ fees to offset the costs of purchasing reusable carryout bags.

Which bags are not affected by the fee?
Paper or plastic bags used for

      • bulk items (produce, grains, small hardware items, etc.)
      • damp items (frozen foods, meat, flowers, etc.)
      • unwrapped prepared foods or bakery goods
      • prescription medicine
      • newspapers or dry cleaning
      • protecting purchased items from damaging or contaminating other items

What about other reusable bags available for purchase?
The carryout bag fee does not apply to other reusable bags, such as canvas totes.

How will Kent assist retailers?
Retailers can download or request signage, such as posters or till toppers, at KentWA.gov/BringYourOwnBag or call 253-856-5589 to request in-store visits.

What are the penalties for not complying?
Retailers that violate the ordinance may be issued a class 1 civil infraction, but the focus will be on helping businesses and customers transition to the ordinance.

Are any businesses exempt?
Yes. Food banks and other food assistance programs are exempt. Other retailers may request a one-year exemption from Kent’s Public Works Director if the ordinance would cause undue hardship.

How will the fee impact low-income customers?
Customers will not be charged for carryout bags if they use a voucher or electronic benefits card issued under food assistance programs such as FAP, SNAP (Basic Food), TANF, or WIC.

For more information, visit KentWA.gov/BringYourOwnBag.