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Posted on: December 22, 2020

Statewide Plastic Bag Ban Delayed Until January 30, 2021

Responding to growing plastic bag pollution, the Washington State Legislature in 2020 passed a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags that was scheduled to take effect on January 1. This new law supersedes the City's "Bring Your Own Bag" Ordinance.

On December 18 Governor Jay Inslee issued a 30-day proclamation to postpone Washington’s statewide plastic bag ban as written in RCW 70a.530.  Here are the most important things to know about this proclamation:

  • The Department of Ecology supports this delay due to ongoing supply chain issues of the compliant paper and reusable plastic bags allowed under the new law. These issues are due, in part, to increased production demand for personal protective equipment in response to the pandemic.
  • The 30-day delay proclamation becomes effective December 31, meaning the statewide bag ban will not go into effect until at least January 30, 2021. 
  • During the 30-day delay, the State legislature is expected to pass a formal amendment to the law so that it becomes effective June 30, 2021. This is expected to give manufacturers and distributors of compliant bags time to catch up to increased demand. Additional delay proclamations may be required. 
  • While the ban is delayed, Ecology will continue to provide education and outreach to help stores and customers make the switch to reusable bags and to understand the details of the statewide ban.

Once the new law goes into effect, 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.

For more details, please visit the Department of Ecology's website.

On March 27, the City suspended it "Bring Your Own Bag" Ordinance until the end of COVID-19 emergency. This state law will override the City's ordinance and single-use plastic bags will be prohibited again on a date determined by the State Legislature.

The City's Single Use Food Serviceware and Litter Reduction Ordinance remains in place, but the ordinance is suspended for the remainder of the COVID-19 emergency.

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