Prior to implementing bans on plastic bags, approximately 290 million plastic bags were distributed Seattle and 30 million in Bellingham each year. In order to determine the success of the plastic bag bans, we conducted a survey of 1,291 consumers and 96 retail stores in Seattle and Bellingham during the month of October 2012. We found that consumers and businesses overwhelmingly support the bag bans there and that eliminating disposable plastic bags has increased the number of people using reusable bags.
Plastic bags litter our roadways, lakes and creeks, contaminate Puget Sound, and harm Washington’s wildlife. Animals can ingest these bags, choke on them, or be exposed to toxic chemicals carried on the plastic.
Voluntary efforts, including recycling programs, have proved insufficient to prevent plastic pollution. In fact, plastic bags actually cause problems for Washington’s recycling industry. When plastic bags are part of mixed recyclables, they get caught in machinery, shutting down recycling operations. Responding to an Environment Washington Research & Policy Center survey, 70 percent of Washington recycling companies want plastic bags out of the waste stream.
There is a simple solution: Cities in Washington, and the state as a whole, can ban single-use plastic bags.
Puget Sound is threatened by plastic pollution. Plastic trash persists for hundreds of years and can kill or harm whales, turtles, seabirds and other marine animals. Single use plastic bags are a significant part of the problem. To reduce ocean pollution and protect the environment, dozens of national and local governments across the planet have taken official action to reduce or eliminate single use plastic bags. State and local governments in Washington should follow their lead and ban the use of plastic grocery bags.