Washington Proposes State-Wide Plastic Bag Ban

Washington is angling to become the second state – after California – to ban single-use plastic bags. Such bans have the potential to stir sales of branded reusable products, like totes, in the promotional products industry.

“Right now, there are more than 86 million metric tons of plastic in our oceans and the equivalent of five grocery bags of plastic trash for every foot of coastline spills into the oceans annually,” said Washington Sen. Kevin Ranker in a recent press statement.

The proposed state bill would prohibit plastic carryout bags, though the ban would be phased in to give businesses time to use up existing stock. Paper bags would be available for 10 cents each. Small plastic bags, used for carrying items including meat, produce and flowers, would be exempt from the ban. The bill is being backed by environmental and conservation groups, as well as an association representing major grocers.

More than 20 communities in Washington already have some form of plastic bag ban on the books, joining a growing movement toward outlawing single-use plastic products. Such bans are a potential boon for the promotional products industry, since they could possibly boost sales of branded tote bags and other reusable items. Charleston, the largest city in South Carolina, recently banned plastic bags, straws and foam containers. California was the first to enact a state-wide ban, though Hawaii essentially has done the same, since all of its most populous counties passed their own plastic bag bans. Major cities like Seattle have authorized bag restrictions, and scores of other smaller municipalities have done the same, including the Philadelphia suburb Narberth, and Lambertville, NJ.

Of course, the push to ban single-use plastic bags has also seen a bit of a backlash. The state of Ohio is eyeing a bill that would prevent local governments from adopting legislation that would tax or ban the use of “auxiliary containers,” a category that includes single-use plastic bags.

Supporters of the pending Ohio legislation say it will bring consistency to the state. Without the bill, “we would have a patchwork of inconsistent laws on the issue around the state, which is a regulatory burden for businesses,” State Rep. Jay Edwards told the Athens News. “Kroger has a full business plan to reduce plastic bags to zero over the next couple years. I believe there are other ways, similar to Kroger’s plan, to go about reducing harmful materials into our environment.”

Earlier this year, the Texas Supreme Court struck down a bag ban in Laredo, which in turn led to Austin no longer enforcing its long-standing bag ban.

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