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Bill proposes statewide ban on single-use plastic bags

(KIRO 7)

Washington state leaders are calling for a new way to limit the use of plastic bags.

The new bill, announced Wednesday morning, would enact a ban on the use of single-use plastic bags across the state.

Currently, there are 19 cities in Washington that have plastic bag bans in place, including Seattle, Tacoma, and Edmonds. Kenmore most recently approved a ban that takes effect on Jan. 1. The Public Works Committee in Kent will consider a bag ordinance in December.

“We are seeing plastic litter along the highways and in our public spaces. We need to reduce bags so that they don’t end up contributing to the litter going into our creeks and lakes,” Kent Councilwoman Brenda Fincher said in a news release. “Numerous countries have banned plastic bags and so we are behind the curve.”

Lawmakers tried to pass a two-cent tax on plastic bags in the last legislative session, but it failed. The new bill will be introduced in the 2019 session. According to the campaign, the bill is one of four pieces of environmental legislation next year: orca recovery, oil spills, and promoting 100 percent renewable energy.

KIRO 7 looked at a Department of Revenue fiscal note which says that even with bag bans in place, Washington state consumers still use plastic bags at the same rate per capita as consumers across the rest of the country.

The agency also says the tax would generate millions of dollars in revenue, nearly $14 million in fiscal 2019.

The bill is backed by Sen. Kevin Ranker, 40th District, Rep. Strom Peterson, 21st District, Kent City Councilmember Brenda Fincher and others.

“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,” Ranker said in a news release. “We must lead with bold progressive action to stop plastic waste from ending up in our oceans.”

Washington Representative Strom Peterson was even more forward in his intent for the legislation: “This is effectively a ban on plastic bags.”

A coalition of supporters include Environment Washington, Puget Sound Keeper Alliance, Seattle Aquarium, Surfrider Foundation, Zero Waste Washington, Woodland Park Zoo, Point Defiance Zoo, and Northwest Grocery Association.

Sara Osborne, Public Affairs Director for Safeway and Albertsons, said that customers pretty easily change their habits.

“In our experience, our customers support reducing plastic bags. … In our bag ban jurisdictions, customers adapted quickly to using their own bags and understand the reasoning to do so.”

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