Plastic bags are a major contaminant in Washington’s recycling facilities, waterways, roadways, and environment. Washington's Plastic Bag Ban will reduce pollution by prohibiting single-use plastic carryout bags and charging a fee for acceptable bags in business establishments. On December 18, 2020, Governor Inslee issued a proclamation delaying implementation of the bag ban until January 30, 2021.
This new law bans single-use plastic bags to reduce marine plastic pollution, litter, and waste. The law will:
- Reduce contamination in commingled recycling and compost systems.
- Promote reuse and recycled content.
- Build consistency in policy and enforcement across the state.
- Support the recycled paper manufacturing industry.
Washington state will:
- Prohibit single-use plastic carryout bags in all retail and grocery stores, restaurants, takeout establishments, festivals, and markets.
- Require an 8-cent charge for all recycled content paper carryout bags and reusable carryout bags made of film plastic.
- The fee may not be collected from anyone using a voucher or electronic benefits card issued under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or Food Assistance Program (FAP).
- Require a minimum of 40 percent post-consumer recycled content and meet composting requirements in all retail-provided paper bags.
- Require that a reusable bag made of plastic film contain 20 percent post-consumer recycled content and be at least 2.25 mil thick.
- Require compliant paper and reusable plastic film bags to be labeled with the above specifications.
- Create consistent policy and fees across the state.
- This ban does not apply to food banks and food assistance programs; however, those programs are encouraged to take actions to reduce the use of single-use plastic carryout bags.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why ban plastic bags?
- Every year Washingtonians use 2 billion single-use plastic bags
- Plastic bags are a big problem in the recycling system
- Plastic bags contain toxic chemicals
- Plastic bags cost retailers money
- Plastic pollution poses both physical and chemical threats to the marine environment
- Reusable bags or recyclable paper bags are a better alternative
Who does the ban apply to?
- All retail, grocery, and convenience stores
- Any restaurant or establishment offering takeout or delivery food or goods
- Temporary stores or vendors
- Any event where food or goods are sold or distributed
What should retailers do with bag inventory purchased before the ban goes into effect?
Are there any restrictions on customers bringing their own bag?
Where does the 8-cent fee on paper and reusable bags go? And is it taxable?
Can retailers "eat the cost" of approved plastic and paper checkout bags and not charge their customers?
Which plastic bags are banned? Are there any exceptions?
Any single-use, plastic carry-out bag provided at delivery, check stand, cash register, point of sale, or other point of departure to a customer.Exceptions to the single-use plastic bag ban include those used by consumers inside stores for:
- Bulk items
- Frozen food
- Potted plants
- Prepared food or bakery goods
- Prescription drugs
- Newspaper bags
- Mailing pouches
- Sealed envelopes
- Door hanger bags
- Dry cleaning bags
- Bags sold in packages with multiple bags, like food storage, garbage, or pet waste
What about compostable bags?
Why did the state ban lightweight plastic carryout bags but allow heavyweight, thicker ones?
How will this be enforced?
How will residents be notified about the bag ban? Are individual retailers responsible for sharing the information?
Visit Department of Ecology's Plastic Bag Ban page to learn more.