An overwhelming majority of Washington voters surveyed on the Northwest Progressive Institute’s behalf agree that retailers ought to be prohibited from distributing single use plastic bags statewide to reduce pollution.
In a survey conducted last autumn by Public Policy Polling for NPI, voters enthusiastically endorsed Senator Mona Das’ Senate Bill 5323, which would implement a statewide plastic bag ban, by a margin of more than two to one.
69% said they agreed that single use plastic bags should be prohibited, while just 26% were opposed. 6% said they were not sure.
The finding was announced today at a press conference in downtown Olympia with Senator Mona Das, Representative Strom Peterson, and leaders from NPI’s friends at Zero Waste Washington and Surfrider Foundation.
SB 5323 is an NPI legislative priority for the 2020 session. Last year, the bill passed by the Washington State Senate with bipartisan support, but did not receive a vote in the House. Happily, less than an hour ago, the Washington State Senate once again passed SB 5323, this time by a vote of thirty to nineteen. The legislation now returns to the House of Representatives for its consideration.
Our research shows that Washingtonians are eager for Senate Bill 5323 to reach Governor Jay Inslee’s desk and be signed into law.
Here’s the question we asked, and the responses we received:
QUESTION: Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree with the following statement: Washington State should reduce ocean pollution and waste in landfills by prohibiting retailers from handing out thin, single use plastic bags, while allowing stores to provide their customers with paper bags or durable, reusable plastic bags for eight cents each, with the eight cent fee waived for those on food stamps?
- Agree: 69%
- Strongly Agree: 48%
- Somewhat Agree: 21%
- Disagree: 26%
- Somewhat Disagree: 7%
- Strongly Disagree: 19%
- Not Sure: 6%
Our survey of nine hundred likely 2019 Washington State voters was in the field October 22nd-23rd, 2019. The survey used a blended methodology with automated phone calls to landlines and text messages to cell phone only respondents. As mentioned, the poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling for NPI, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% confidence level.
A majority of people in every region of the state expressed support for banning single use plastic bags, including 80% of King County voters, 72% of North Sound voters, 67% of South Sound voters, 66% of Olympic Peninsula and Southwest Washington voters, and 53% of voters in Eastern and Central Washington.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), eight states have so far banned single-use plastic bags: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont. Five of those states enacted their bans last year, when Senator Das’ SB 5323 was initially introduced.
If Washington adopts SB 5323 this year — and it must — then the entire Pacific coast (with the exception of Alaska) will have single use plastic bag bans.Reusable Bag Bill Fact Sheet
Many cities and counties within Washington already have their own plastic bag bans; Edmonds was the first to adopt one nearly a decade ago. But most local jurisdictions still don’t have one. If Senate Bill 5323 is enacted, then the entire state will be committed to taking an important step to reduce plastic pollution.
What makes thin, single use plastic bags so awful? In a sentence, they are energy intensive to make, used and disposed of rather quickly, and then persist in our environment for an extremely long time. Here are ten facts about single use plastic bags that you should know from the Center For Biological Diversity:
- Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, which require twelve million barrels of oil to manufacture.
- It only takes about fourteen plastic bags for the equivalent of the gas required to drive one mile.
- The average American family takes home almost 1,500 plastic shopping bags a year.
- According to Waste Management, only one percent of plastic bags are returned for recycling. That means that the average family only recycles fifteen bags a year; the rest end up in landfills or as litter.
- Up to eighty percent of ocean plastic pollution enters the ocean from land.
- At least two hundred and sixty-seven different species have been affected by plastic pollution in the ocean.
- 100,000 marine animals are killed by plastic bags annually.
- One in three leatherback sea turtles have been found with plastic in their stomachs.
- Plastic bags are used for an average of twelve minutes.
- It takes five hundred (or more) years for a plastic bag to degrade in a landfill. Unfortunately, the bags don’t break down completely but instead photo-degrade, becoming microplastics that absorb toxins and continue to pollute the environment.
The Earth is the one common home that we all share… and we’re trashing it.
We need to change our ways. It’s absolutely imperative that we work together to live more sustainably. Washingtonians know that plastic pollution is a problem, and they want their elected representatives to address it. The Washington State House must join the Senate this year in adopting legislation that will cut down the number of plastic bags being thrown away after just a few minutes of use.