Washington's single-use plastic bag ban

Plastic bags are a major contaminant in Washington’s recycling facilities, waterways, roadways, and environment. Washington's Plastic Bag Ban will reduce pollution by prohibiting single-use plastic carryout bags and charging a fee for acceptable bags in business establishments beginning in January 2021.

icon of a plastic ban inside a red circle with a slash

Plastic bag ban

During the 2020 legislative session, the Legislature passed a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, an effort to reduce plastic pollution, litter, and waste.

This ban will also benefit Washington's recycling system:

  • Reducing contamination in the recycling and compost systems
  • Promoting reuse and recycled content
  • Building consistency in policy and enforcement across the state
  • Supporting the recycled paper industry

As Washington transitions away from single-use plastic bags, we will continue to provide technical assistance, education, and outreach materials to businesses and the public. We collaborated with local governments, retailers, business associations, and non-profits to begin this effort, and have developed a bag ban outreach toolkit that is formatted for accessibility and available in 17 languages.

When the bag ban goes into effect on Oct. 1, 2021, anyone may submit an observation of businesses not in compliance with the new requirements using our reporting form. We will use this information to follow up with businesses to ensure their understanding of the new law. Repeated non-compliance may result in penalties.

Bag ban becomes effective Oct. 1, 2021

Due to supply chain issues of compliant bags during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Jay Inslee delayed implementation of the bag ban. On July 13, the Governor rescinded the proclamation and set the single-use plastic bag ban effective date for Oct. 1, 2021.

Although the ban is not yet in effect, we encourage businesses to begin compliance with the law’s new requirements. However, businesses are not required to do so until October 1.

  • Every year Washingtonians use 2 billion single-use plastic bags
  • Plastic bags are a big problem in the recycling system
  • Plastic bags contain chemicals that are toxic once released into the environment
  • Plastic bags cost retailers money
  • Plastic pollution poses both physical and chemical threats to the marine environment
  • Reusable bags or recyclable paper bags are a better alternative

When the law becomes effective on October 1, it will:

  • Prohibit single-use plastic carryout bags in all retail and grocery stores, restaurants, takeout establishments, festivals, and markets.
  • Require an 8-cent charge for all recycled content paper carryout bags and reusable carryout bags made of film plastic.
  • The fee may not be collected from anyone using a voucher or electronic benefits card issued under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Temporary Assitance for Needy Families (TANF), or Food Assistance Program (FAP).
  • Require a minimum of 40% post-consumer recycled content and meet composting requirements in all retail-provided paper bags.
  • Require that a reusable bag made of plastic film contain 20% post-consumer recycled content and be at least 2.25 mil thick.
  • Require compliant paper and reusable plastic film bags to be labeled with the above specifications
  • Create consistent policy and fees across the state.
  • This ban does not apply to food banks and food assistance programs, however, those programs are encouraged to take actions to reduce the use of single-use plastic carryout bags.

 

Frequently asked questions