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 businesses beginning in October 2021.

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

Allowed and banned bags

   

Large paper carryout bags: $0.08

Large paper carryout bags are 882 cubic inches or larger. They must contain at least 40% post-consumer recycled content or wheat straw, and they must be labeled with this percentage on the bag.

   

Small paper bags: Charge optional

Stores are not required to charge for small paper bags (bags smaller than 882 cubic inches). However, all paper bags must meet the 40% post consumer recycled content or wheat straw minimum and be labeled with this percentage on the bag.

   

Thick reusable plastic carryout bags: $0.08

Must be labeled with the mil thickness, the post-consumer recycled content percentage, and the word “reusable” on the bag.

   

 

Plastic produce bags: No charge

Plastic produce bags used by customers in store are exempt from the ban.

   

 

Compostable bags: Not recommended

Compostable bags are not accepted at most commercial composting facilities in Washington. Before you offer these bags, reach out to your local composting facility to ensure they are accepted.

    

Reusable bags

Bringing your own clean and reusable bag is the best option. Using your own reusable bag is free.

  

Single-use plastic carryout bags: Banned

All single-use plastic carryout bags are banned.

 

Green or brown plastic produce bags: Banned

Only compostable bags can be tinted green or brown (Chapter 70A.455 RCW). No bag can use the following misleading labels: "biodegradable," "decomposable," "degradable."

Ban will benefit state's recycling system

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 benefit the state's recycling system on several fronts:

  • 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.

  • 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 or wheat straw paper carrout bags and for all reusable carryout bags made of thick film plastic.
  • The fee may not be collected from anyone with 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).
  • Paper bags require a minimum of 40% post-consumer recycled content, 40% wheat straw, or a combination of the two materials equal to 40%.
  • Thick reusable plastic bags must be made of at least 20% post-consumer recycled content, be at least 2.25 mil thick, and be labeled on the bag with these specifications and with the word “Reusable.”
  • 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.

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.

Frequently asked questions