OLYMPIA — Lawmakers aim to reduce pollution from plastic bags by establishing higher standards for the use of bags at retail establishments.

Substitute House Bill 1205 is co-sponsored by 16 Democratic representatives and introduced by Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds.

The legislation restricts the provision of single-use plastic carryout bags in grocery and retail stores across Washington state. Plastic bags are made of nonrenewable resources and never biodegrade, posing a threat to animal life and the food chain, the bill states.

Single-use plastic bags cause damage to the recycling stream and place a burden on resource conservation goals, explained Peterson at a public hearing on the substitute bill on Monday. The bill promotes environmental education, as well as good business and economic sense, he said.

SHB 1205 requires establishments to collect a pass-through charge of at least 10 cents for each recycled-content paper carryout bag in order to reduce waste, litter and marine pollution. The goal is not for people to pay a fee, but to remember to grab that reusable bag from the trunk, Peterson said.

“A 10 cent fee is a good market changer for a lot of consumers to really encourage them to bring their reusable bags when they go shopping,” he said.

The substitute bill clarifies that the charge may not be collected from people using electronic benefits cards or vouchers under state and federal food assistance programs.

According to the legislation, compostable film bags provided to customers by retail establishments, food banks and food assistance programs must be tinted brown or green. Reusable carryout bags made of film plastic must have a minimum thickness of .003 inches and be made from at least 40 percent post-consumer recycled content material.

Bruce Wishart testified in support of the bill on behalf of Zero Waste Washington. He emphasized the serious and growing problem with single-use plastics on marine life.

“We think it’s important to provide an incentive for people to move from paper bags to the durable reusable bag,” Wishart said.

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