NPI press conference in support of Reusable Bag Bill
NPI Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve leads a press conference announcing the release of new research showing strong support for a plastic bag ban (Photo: Carolyn Barclift/NPI)

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.

NPI press conference in support of Reusable Bag Bill
NPI Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Andrew Vil­leneuve leads a press con­fer­ence announc­ing the release of new research show­ing strong sup­port for a plas­tic bag ban (Pho­to: Car­olyn Barclift/NPI)

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:

  1. Amer­i­cans use 100 bil­lion plas­tic bags a year, which require twelve mil­lion bar­rels of oil to manufacture.
  2. It only takes about four­teen plas­tic bags for the equiv­a­lent of the gas required to dri­ve one mile.
  3. The aver­age Amer­i­can fam­i­ly takes home almost 1,500 plas­tic shop­ping bags a year.
  4. 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.
  5. Up to eighty per­cent of ocean plas­tic pol­lu­tion enters the ocean from land.
  6. At least two hun­dred and six­ty-sev­en dif­fer­ent species have been affect­ed by plas­tic pol­lu­tion in the ocean.
  7. 100,000 marine ani­mals are killed by plas­tic bags annually.
  8. One in three leatherback sea tur­tles have been found with plas­tic in their stomachs.
  9. Plas­tic bags are used for an aver­age of twelve min­utes.
  10. 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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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3 replies on “More than two in three Washingtonians favor banning single use plastic bags, NPI poll finds”

  1. How about that… the peo­ple get it. Now, will our leg­is­la­tors have the courage to step up and tack­le our plas­tic pol­lu­tion nightmare? 

  2. How many cities and coun­ties have to pass their own bans before the Leg­is­la­ture joins the par­ty? C’mon, State House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, get it togeth­er and pass this bill! 

  3. Ban­ning sin­gle-use plas­tic bags may not seem like a bad idea, but my con­cern is that it will lead to the ban­ning or restric­tion of oth­er things that many peo­ple use on a dai­ly basis. For instance, in some places, not only have sin­gle-use plas­tic bags been banned, but also plas­tic straws. In such cas­es, paper straws have been used as a substitute.

    How­ev­er, paper straws will dis­solve in what­ev­er liq­uid they’re placed in, after enough time, ren­der­ing them use­less. That’s cer­tain­ly a sit­u­a­tion that can be avoid­ed, by just con­tin­u­ing to use plas­tic straws.

    There­fore, I am rather skep­ti­cal about the idea of ban­ning sin­gle-use plas­tic bags, espe­cial­ly since my fam­i­ly uses them around the house for plac­ing in trash bins.

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