Residents could be charged for paper, reusable plastic bags

House, Senate bill would ban thin plastic shopping bags, require certain fee



Eileen Macoll, member of Pullman City council and the Whitman County Solid Waste Advisory Committee, says plastic bags cause litter and disrupt machinery in recycling plants.

HANNAH WELZBACKER, Evergreen reporter

Locals could be charged 10 cents per plastic bag as Washington state lawmakers consider banning single-use plastic bags beginning in 2020.

House Bill 1205 and Senate Bill 5323 would ban thin plastic shopping bags and require storekeepers to charge a fee for paper bags or a reusable plastic bag, according to the legislative documents.

Eileen Macoll, member of Pullman City Council and the Whitman County Solid Waste Advisory Committee, said there are currently 27 existing city and county ordinances banning plastic bags across the state.

“It’s an idea that’s time has come,” Macoll said.

Macoll said a state ban would be more cohesive and evenly understood through all communities. The ban only affects the bags customers get at the checkout stands, not bags vegetables come in.

Macoll said the consumer cost is negligible, and customers who are part of food assistance programs are exempt from the fee.

“You see [plastic bags] hanging on every bush in a windstorm,” Macoll said.

Plastic bags cause litter problems, enter the water systems and tangle up machinery in recycling plants, she said. Macoll visited a recycling facility in Seattle where Pullman recyclables are collected and watched as workers cut plastic bags from machines.

“It’s dirty, it’s dangerous and it causes time delays and prevents the proper recycling of other good recyclable materials,” she said.

Archie McGregor III, owner of Dissmore’s IGA, said he did not support the ban because he believes customers should be able to choose what kind of bag they want.

“It’s not about whether they are right or wrong, it’s about the customer,” McGregor said.

He said some customers prefer plastic bags because they do better in bad weather. Customers do not always have their reusable bag with them, and they use plastic bags for home garbage bins.

McGregor said the plastic bags Dissmore’s IGA currently use are made from recyclable plastic.

“There is a considerable cost difference between plastic and paper,” he said.

The headline has been updated to reflect the correct type of bag.