March 12 – Walmart announced earlier this week that it will stop supplying plastic carrier bags to its Washington stores starting April 18. The move will encourage shoppers to use the retailer’s reusable bags. The decision also fits in with the state ban on flimsy plastic shopping bags.
The company’s new guidelines will affect more than 60 Walmart stores in the state. Washington joins Vermont, Maine, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Colorado in the company’s efforts to eliminate waste and encourage shoppers to bring their own bags.
“Eliminating single-use bags is part of our effort to reduce waste in our stores and keep Washington’s communities and ecosystems clean,” said Jane Ewing, senior vice president of Walmart Sustainability in Walmart’s press release. “Our customers in Washington want to be involved in this journey, and Walmart is committed to making the sustainable choice easy and accessible every day.”
Walmart’s delivery service will continue to use paper bags.
Banned bags at WA retailers
As of 2010, single-use plastic bags were banned in Washington municipalities. Over the next several years, dozens of local governments began enacting their own single-use plastic bans, most of which were cities in eastern Washington.
The state of Washington has completely banned single-use carrier bags in October 2021. The ban aims to reduce pollution within recycling and composting systems, promote reuse and recycled content, and support the recycled paper industry.
The Department of Ecology outlines which bags are prohibited, which bags carry a fee, and which items are exempt:
Bags with green or brown products: These are prohibited because only compostable bags can be colored green or brown.
Paper Carrier Bags: Paper carrier bags must contain at least 40% post-consumer recycled content or wheat straw. Large paper bags should cost 8 cents, but a small paper bag surcharge is optional. Nor can they be labeled as “biodegradable,” “degradable,” or “degradable.”
Thick reusable plastic bags: These also have a mandatory 8 cent surcharge. They must list the millimeter thickness, the percentage of post-consumer recycled material and the word “reusable” on the bag.
Plastic bag of products: These are exempt from the ban.
Compostable bags: The DOE does not recommend using these, as many local waste facilities do not handle compost bags. In Tacoma, compost bags are considered garbage and cannot be placed in food or yard waste bins.
The goal of introducing a paper bag allowance is to encourage people to think twice before going to stores and bringing their own reusable bags, according to Carolyn Bowie, a waste reduction and recycling specialist with Washington’s Department of Ecology.
Pockets charged by consumers do not apply to food banks and food pantries. People receiving government food assistance, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, are not subject to an 8-cent bag fee.
If you know of a retailer that doesn’t meet the state’s bag guidelines, you can report a violation on the DOE website.
Options for throwing away plastic
If you have a stack of plastic bags, reusable or not, and you want to dispose of them without contributing waste, consider these options:
Take thin plastic to a drop-off point. Many local retailers participate in plastic collection to reduce waste and use the material in future products. Visit BagandFilmRecycling.org to find a store that accepts plastic bags.
— Consider using a home pick-up service such as Ridwell. The service removes plastic bags, foil and other materials from residents for a fee.
This story was originally published March 10, 2023 at 11:34 AM.
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