A bill to ban Washington stores from providing customers with single-use plastic bags was approved last Thursday by the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee Such a ban would be a huge step forward for the environment and public health, said Bruce Speight, state director of Environment Washington, a Seattle-based advocacy group. “Nothing we use for a few minutes should be allowed to pollute our oceans and rivers, and threaten wildlife for centuries,” Speight said.
Americans use more than 380 billion plastic bags each year, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates. Plastic components are found in many types of marine life and kill as many as 100,000 sea mammals each year, according to the United Nations. Plastic bags already are regulated in 27 cities in Washington, but Ellensburg is the only city east of the Cascades. The bill would provide Spokane and other inland cities with cleaner air and water, said Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane.
Film plastic, the type used in plastic bags, made up about 6 percent of Eastern Washington’s waste stream from 2015 to 2016, according to a Waste Characterization Study from the Washington Department of Ecology. Total plastic accounted for more than 12 percent, or nearly 90,000 tons, of the East Side’s waste.
Under the proposal, customers could purchase paper or reusable plastic bags for a dime each. Cities with a bag ordinance already in place would be required to adopt the state’s bill by January 2020 but could charge a higher bag fee. The fee would raise customer awareness and encourage them to reuse bags, said Rosauers Chief Executive Officer Jeff Philipps, whose company supports a statewide bill. “In charging the consumer for that cost differential, it really encourages the use of reusable bags, which is something our industry has been promoting for quite some time,” Philipps said.
The fee also would help stores offset the added cost of paper bags. A paper bag costs the store 12 cents, compared to 3 cents for plastic, he said. Although Rosauers doesn’t have a figure for total number of plastic bags its stores use, Philipps said at one location, where customers opt for plastic bags 74 percent of the time, the cost to replace them with paper bags could be $85,000.