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New bill would ban plastic bags in Washington

New bill would ban plastic bags in Washington (KOMO News)

A new bill would effectively ban plastic bags in Washington.

A coalition of state legislators, environmental leaders and grocery store representatives gathered Wednesday to announce the new bill, which they hope to pass in 2019.

The bill would ban all single-use plastic carryout bags.

Twenty-three local jurisdictions (about one third of Washington’s population) already have similar bans in place, but this would be statewide.

In addition, the bill requires stores to charge 10 cents for all paper carryout bags. The store would keep that money to off-set the cost of offering paper instead of plastic.

The ultimate goal is to encourage people to bring reusable bags to the store, driving down everyone’s cost.

Plastic bags would still be available for produce, meat, newspapers and several other items where dampness or sanitation might be a concern.

Recipients of food assistance programs are exempt from the fee.

In discussing the environmental benefits of the ban, State Senator Kevin Ranker said 8 million metric tons of plastic are currently contaminating our oceans, which hurts Northwest wildlife, like the orca whale.

The coalition says only about 6 percent of plastic bags ever get recycled.

Jackie Maples owns Top of the Hill Quality Produce in Renton, where plastic bags are still allowed. She welcomes the ban, given she spends close to $8,000 a year on recyclable plastic bags to accommodate her customers.

“It would definitely save us money,” she said. “I would rather see people bring their own reusable bags and allow us to just offer paper bags.”

Some refute the science behind the proposed ban.

Todd Myers, the Environmental Director at the Washington Policy Center, a free market think-tank, claims the ban would actually increase environmental damage.

“This is not to say plastic bags cause no impact,” Myers wrote. “Of course they do. Banning them, however, would cause greater harm.”

If it passes, stores would be able to use their inventory of plastic bags until 2020.

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