In a small way, the world might be a little tidier place today — Washington’s ban on single-use plastic bags took effect Friday.
The Legislature approved the ban during its 2020 session, then decided to delay its start date. Lawmakers figured we already had enough to worry about from the pandemic.
Anyway, from now on retail stores, grocery stores, convenience stores and restaurants generally won’t give you a bag unless you pay 8 cents for it. The hope is that you’ll just bring along your own tote bag.
It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.
For many of us, remembering to tuck a tote under our arm to go shopping will probably feel a little awkward. Or we’ll forget and leave our bags at home, in the back seat of the car or somewhere near the toilet-paper aisle.
Others, no doubt, will see the new rule as something else to grumble about. Yet another example of Olympia’s overreach, they’ll complain.
Still others will probably just shrug the whole thing off and pay the 8 cents. What’s an extra dollar on a trunkload of groceries?
There are some practical exceptions to the ban. You can still get free, one-use plastic bags for bulk items, meats, produce, frozen food, bakery goods, flowers and plants, and prescriptions. And stores can give you small paper bags if they’re made of recycled materials.
The point of this whole thing is to make recycling cleaner — fewer plastic bags in the mix means less contamination of recycled products. The state’s also hoping it’ll encourage more recycling in general.
Single-use plastics, according to state Department of Ecology spokesman Dave Bennett, are the “most littered” in Washington. “Plastic bags are a major contaminant,” Bennett told Spokane’s Spokesman-Review newspaper, “which is why we don’t want them (stores) to try to recycle these bags or any kinds of plastic bags.”
Anybody who’s ever driven anywhere in Yakima County can attest to that. We’ve gotten so used to scraps of plastic grocery bags fluttering along our roadsides and getting whipped into nest-like knots along fence lines that we barely notice them anymore.
If this ban can help that, it’s well worth it.
As inconvenient as it might seem, it’s worth it for a lot of reasons. Perhaps one of the most important of those is that it’ll likely remind us that a tiny change in our everyday lives can make a worthwhile difference in everyone’s quality of life.
This is a small step, but small steps eventually add up to a noticeable shift in direction.