Washington state lawmakers are considering bills banning single-use plastic bags that aim to reduce waste and pollution, but the legislation may also cost consumers extra at grocery stores.

Bills in the House and Senate with similar language would ban retail stores from giving out non-compostable single-use plastic bags starting in 2020 and require retailers to charge customers 10 cents to buy paper bags or plastic reusable bags. Customers who are part of federal or state food assistance programs would be exempt from the charge.

Archie McGregor, owner of Dissmore’s in Pullman, said consumers may see increased costs at the register if the legislation is passed. He said paper bags are considerably more expensive than plastic bags, a cost that may have to be passed on to the customer. Paper bags are also bulkier, which may cause some storage challenges.

“It would create challenges for us that would translate into challenges for the customer,” said

McGregor said he believes customers should have the option of choosing paper or plastic, rather than the state deciding for them. He said many Dissmore’s customers already use reusable bags.

Pullman City Councilor Eileen Macoll, who is also member of the Whitman County Solid Waste Advisory Committee, supports a ban on plastic bags and said Washington is already trending toward a plastic-free grocery shopping experience.

“This is something whose time has come,” she said.

She said this is evidenced by 27 other communities in Washington having already instituted bag bans. She said one purpose behind these bills currently in the Legislature is to create consistent standards around Washington.

The bills also mention the fact that plastic bags are difficult to recycle and can clog sorting facilities, “resulting in mis-sorted materials and costly inefficiencies that are ultimately borne by utility ratepayers.”

Macoll said she visited the Seattle recycling facility where Pullman’s recyclables eventually end up. During her tour, the machines had to stop because they were tangled up with plastic bags.

The bills also point to pollution caused by plastics, which are nonrenewable and are not biodegradable. Plastic materials are carried into rivers, lakes and oceans, where they pose a threat to marine life. They also litter roads, beaches and other public places, the bills say.

Seattle introduced its own ban in 2012 and the city now requires businesses to charge a minimum of 5 cents for paper bags. According to the Seattle government website, Washingtonians use more than 2 billion plastic bags per year. It also said PCB levels in Chinook salmon in the Puget Sound are three to five times higher than any other West Coast populations.

Anthony Kuipers can be reached at (208) 883-4640, or by email to akuipers@dnews.com.

Recommended for you