Governor bans single-use plastic bags, but local restaurants are already ahead of the game

Elise Tumbas, director of sales for Heritage Restaurant & Bar, says the establishment has always used 100% recycled bags for take-out. Bob Kirkpatrick

By Hannah Saunders

Gov. Jay Inslee delayed enacting the single-use plastic bag ban due to COVID supply chain issues, but on Friday, Oct. 1, the ban was put into effect.

The goal of Washington’s Plastic Bag Ban is to reduce pollution by doing (getting) rid of single-use plastic bags while also charging fees for certain bags in businesses.

Although the single-use plastic bag ban may affect certain businesses, a handful of local restaurants have already been using paper bags and don’t believe the ban will have much, if any impact.

Pizza Coop & Ale House in Woodinville made the switch from plastic to paper bags years ago. Amaro Bistro in Bothell, which offers authentic Italian food, currently uses large paper bags. According to the owner, Nick Wiltz, the restaurant plans to switch from paper to compostable bags in the future.

“At Heritage, we have always 100% recycled paper bags (never plastic) for food & beverage take-out, take-home and/or guests purchasing any retail items,” Elise Tumbas, director of sales at Heritage Restaurant & Bar said in an email. “We use brown kraft recycled paper bags and boxes in several sizes.”

The bags at Heritage are listed as “100% recycled paper” and “this bag is 100% recyclable.” For sauce containers, the restaurant uses plastic recyclable containers that are microwavable and dishwasher safe.

“We’re really proud of the to-go program we have in place—we put a lot of thought and research into procuring products we could really get behind,” Tumbas said.

Facts about single-use plastic bags

Single-use plastic bags contain toxic chemicals and when released into the environment, pose a threat to sea life. Every year Washingtonians use about 2 billion single-use plastic bags, which also costs retailers money. Single-use plastic bags end up in the ocean, which sea creatures consume or become entangled in. Better alternatives to plastic are reusable and recyclable bags.

New bag guidelines

The single-use plastic bag ban applies to all retail, grocery and convenience stores; restaurants or facilities offering takeout or delivery; temporary vendors or stores; and events where food is sold or distributed.

Reusable plastic bags must be made of at least 20% post-consumer recycled content; The plastic film must be at least 2.25 millimeters thick; The bag must be labeled “Reusable”

Paper bags must be made of at least 20% post-consumer recycled content (bags must be labeled with post-consumer recycled content).

Fees

An 8-cent fee applies to paper and reusable plastic bags in order to enable consumers to bring their own bags and to assist with cost coverage for businesses. The fee must be displayed as a taxable sale on the customer receipts.

Non-compliance

Citizens may report bag non-compliances via an observation reporting form found on the Department of Ecology’s website. Once the department receives forms, they will reach out to establishments to ensure they understand the single-use plastic bag ban, however, repeated non-compliance may result in a $250 fine.

The deadline for businesses to use up their single-use plastic bag inventories was in June; however, businesses may continue to use up the entire inventory. Businesses using up leftover inventories may receive non-compliance complaints and may be asked to show receipts for proof of purchase prior to October 1.

For more information on the single-use plastic bag ban visit https://ecology.wa.gov/Waste-Toxics/Reducing-recycling-waste/Waste-reduction-programs/Plastics/Plastic-bag-ban

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