On Wednesday a proposal to banish flimsy, single-use plastic bags from Washington passed the Senate. If the House approves and the Senate concurs and then the governor signs it, the bill would prevent retailers (including restaurants) from offering customers plastic carryout bags. The measure would also require stores to charge 8 cents for paper bags.
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At a hearing last year, Bruce Wishart, an environmental lobbyist for Zero Waste Washington, argued that plastic bags cause a range of environmental problems. When they're not contributing to the giant plastic island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean or choking sea turtles, they're "routinely" gumming up the works in recycling facilities and forcing shutdowns.
Pointing to many of those problems, environmental groups, labor, the freakin chemical industry, and small and large grocers have come out in support of the bill.
Paper bag manufacturers, however, oppose the bill. They think the 8-cent price tag for paper will discourage customers from buying their product. I find this argument unconvincing. A completely unscientific study done by me right now in my breakfast nook found that 100% of apartment dwellers use paper bags as recycling bins and as regular garbage bins. As long as this practice persists, people will continue dropping dimes at the QFC to meet their bag needs.
Though the paper bag people don't like the bill, the idea of banning plastic bags enjoys broad support. A new poll from the Northwest Progressive Institute found that 69% of Washington voters think we should ban the bags, which is…nice. It also just makes sense. Thirty-seven jurisdictions in Washington already ban plastic bags, so it’s not like this will be a big cultural shift.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Mona Das, said she expects no roadblocks in the House, citing "great meetings" on the issue between the two caucuses during the interim. Das added that Gov. Jay Inslee was supportive of the bill when it nearly passed last year, and so she imagines he'll support it again this year.