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Washington lawmakers prep bill that would ban single-use plastic bags

A bill expected to be introduced next session would ban single-use plastic bags in Washington and charge 10 cents for a paper carryout bag.

"Paper or plastic?" will no longer be a question in Washington state if an effort in Olympia gains traction.

Rep. Strom Peterson plans to introduce a bill aiming to reduce the use of plastic bags during the 2019 legislative session. Sen. Kevin Ranker plans to introduce a Senate version of the same bill.

"Now’s the time for Washington to take a step forward and lead the way on doing something for our environment and our communities, and everything that goes with that good stewardship of what we throw away," Peterson said.

The bill, according to information from Rep. Peterson's office, builds on local ordinances. It would prohibit the use of single-use plastic carryout bags and would require a charge of 10 cents on all paper carryout bags to encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable bags.

The bill would require the use of recycled content bags.

Q&A: Would a plastic bag ban help the environment?

There would be exemptions, including bags used for produce, newspapers, dry cleaning, hardware items, prescription drugs, unwrapped prepared goods, frozen foods, meat, fish, flowers, and potted plants. Recipients of food assistance programs would be exempt from the fee.

It's part of an effort to reduce the amount of nonrenewable resources being used while also cutting down on plastic pollution, according to information from Peterson's office.

Peterson said he hopes the bill gains bipartisan support, and it's been widely well-received in his caucus.

However, opponents of bill claim the legislation won't have the environmental effects it intends, citing studies from the UK Environment Agency and Danish Environment Agency that found reusable cotton bags create 300 times as much water pollution as plastic bags.

"This is not to say plastic bags cause no impact," said Todd Myers, Washington Policy Center environmental director. "Of course they do. Banning them, however, would cause greater harm, as the science indicates."

A number of local jurisdictions in Washington state have passed ordinances that regulate the use of single-use plastic carry-home bags.

Earlier this year, Kroger announced it will ban the use of plastic checkout bags in its stores by 2025. That would include QFC and Fred Meyer.

The debate over plastic shopping bags has spread across the nation.

Last year, a statewide referendum on California's 2016 ban of plastic bags fell short of repealing the law, so it remains in effect.

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