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Compostable film bags for products bagged in stores before checkout must meet the requirements for compostable products and film bags in Chapter 70.360 RCW.
Businesses are allowed to give the bags to customers at checkout, with an optional fee. However, the Washington State Department of Ecology can't currently recommend their use, because Washington lacks uniform composting infrastructure.
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October 1, 2021
Any single-use, plastic carry-out bag provided at delivery, check stand, cash register, point of sale, or other point of departure to a customer.
No. Customers are encouraged to bring and reuse their own bags when they shop. Some businesses may require customers to bag their own groceries in reusable bags. Customers should clean and disinfect their hands and reusable bags frequently.
Exceptions to the single-use plastic bag ban include those used by consumers inside stores for:
These bags are also exempt:
Reusable film plastic bags must contain a minimum of 20% post-consumer recycled content until July 1, 2022, and thereafter must be made from a minimum of 40% post-consumer recycled content.
The percentage of post-consumer recycled content, the mil thickness, and "Reusable" must be displayed in print on the outside of the plastic bag. Bags meeting these requirements are still subject to the 8-cent charge.
A mil is a measurement that equals one-thousandth of an inch, or 0.001 inch. One mil also equals 0.0254 mm (millimeter). Reusable plastic bags sold for 8 cents under the new bag ban are required to be at least 2.25 mil and this requirement will increase to 4 mil beginning in 2026.
The thicker, stronger plastic bags — those more than 2.25 mil thick — have special uses for which paper is not a good option or not readily available. These bags must still be made of at least 20% post-consumer recycled content and have the recycled content printed on the outside of the bag. In 2025, the required thickness increases to 4 mil.
Businesses collect and keep this fee, to recover some of the cost of providing the bags.
Anyone will be able to report a business using prohibited bags through Washington State Department of Ecology's webpage, starting in 2021. Washington State Department of Ecology will review complaints and respond by providing the non-compliant business with additional information, resources, and technical assistance. Though Washington State Department of Ecology intends to respond whenever possible with assistance in gaining compliance, repeated and continuous non-compliance may result in up to a $250 fine.
All residents are encouraged to bring their own reusable bags, however, to ease the impact on low-income customers, retailers must waive the carryout bag fee for customers paying with a voucher or electronic benefits card issued under:
The Plastic Bag Ban does not apply to food banks and other food assistance programs, but these organizations are encouraged to reuse bags whenever possible.
Plastic bags are accepted for recycling at many grocery stores. Visit plasticfilmrecycling.com for locations.