CHOKEPOINTS

Sullivan: A glance at current Washington state laws to avoid littering on the road

May 10, 2022, 6:43 AM
Trash is strewn along an Interstate 5 freeway on-ramp as viewed in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by G...
Trash is strewn along an Interstate 5 freeway on-ramp as viewed in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)
(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

Littering is still a huge problem on our roads, but are you still required to carry a trash bag in your car?

This came up on 97.3 KIRO FM a few weeks ago when I was highlighting the trash removal along 512 in Pierce County. The state had to close down the inside lane of the highway for several days to pick up all the trash. Workers collected more than 24,000 pounds of trash, just on that stretch of road from Puyallup to Portland Avenue.

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During that discussion, we started talking about litter bags and whether the state law requiring them was still in effect.

RCW 70.93.100 was passed in the 1970s, and it required everyone, whether driving a car, a boat, or a plane to carry a litter bag. If caught without one, you would have to pay a fine and face a potential court appearance.

“From my perspective, it was a law that was in effect to encourage people not to litter, to have something in their vehicle where they are not going to throw it (trash) out the window,” Washington State Trooper Rick Johnson said. He started patrolling the roads in 1991.

“I never wrote a litter bag ticket,” Trooper Johnson said. “Some people you stop and their litter bag is on the floorboard of the passenger side of the car.”

It turns out the law was repealed by the legislature in 2003. So, you are no longer required to carry a bag, but Trooper Johnson said it is a good idea to have one anyway.

Troopers carry litter bags to this day, and you can always ask for one. “They don’t have any place to put this so let’s provide them with a litter bag,” Trooper Johnson said.

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Asking for a bag will give you a spot to put your trash and keep the car clean.

Littering is still illegal, especially throwing lighted materials out of the car. You will get ticketed, if a Trooper catches you doing it. Secured load requirements have also been beefed up since the bag requirement was repealed.

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Sullivan: A glance at current Washington state laws to avoid littering on the road