Pass the Reusable Bag Bill!
Pass the Reusable Bag Bill!

Leg­is­la­tion that would ban sin­gle use plas­tic bags at the statewide lev­el is one step clos­er to becom­ing law thanks to a big vote today in the Wash­ing­ton State House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in sup­port of Mona Das’ ESSB 5323.

After approv­ing floor amend­ments, six­ty-sev­en rep­re­sen­ta­tives vot­ed to pass ESSB 5323, includ­ing a big con­tin­gent of Repub­li­cans, while only twen­ty-nine rep­re­sen­ta­tives vot­ed nay. ESSB 5323 is now on its way back to the Senate.

The roll call was follows:

ESSB 5323
Plas­tic bags
House vote on Final Pas­sage as Amend­ed by the House

Yeas: 67; Nays: 29; Excused: 2

Vot­ing Yea: Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Bergquist, Boehnke, Callan, Cham­bers, Chap­man, Chopp, Cody, Davis, DeBolt, Doglio, Dolan, Duerr, Dye, Enten­man, Eslick, Fey, Fitzgib­bon, Frame, Gildon, Goehn­er, Good­man, Gregerson, Hansen, Har­ris, Hud­gins, John­son, J., Kil­duff, Kir­by, Klo­ba, Lekanoff, Lovick, Macri, Mead, Mor­gan, Orms­by, Ortiz-Self, Orwall, Pel­lic­ciot­ti, Peter­son, Pet­ti­grew, Pol­let, Ramel, Ramos, Ric­cel­li, Robin­son, Ryu, San­tos, Sells, Senn, Shew­make, Slat­ter, Smith, Springer, Steele, Stonier, Sul­li­van, Tar­leton, Thai, Tharinger, Valdez, Van Wer­ven, Walen, Walsh, Wylie, Ybar­ra, Young, Jinkins

Vot­ing Nay: Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Barkis, Blake, Caldier, Chan­dler, Cor­ry, Dent, Dufault, Gra­ham, Grif­fey, Hoff, Irwin, Jenkin, Klip­pert, Kraft, Kretz, Leav­itt, MacEwen, May­cum­ber, McCaslin, Mos­bruck­er, Orcutt, Rude, Schmick, Shea, Stokes­bary, Suther­land, Vick, Volz, Wilcox

Excused: Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Apple­ton, Paul

Had State Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Sher­ry Apple­ton and Dave Paul been present to vote, ESSB 5323 like­ly would have received six­ty-nine aye votes, which would have matched — exact­ly — the lev­el of sup­port that ESSB 5323 received in our last statewide research poll. We announced our find­ing last Jan­u­ary at a press con­fer­ence in Olympia with Sen­a­tor Das, State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Strom Peter­son, Heather Trim of Zero Waste Wash­ing­ton, and Gus of Surfrid­er Foundation.

In our poll, 69% said they agreed that sin­gle use plas­tic bags should be pro­hib­it­ed, while just 26% were opposed. 6% said they were not sure.

Two Democ­rats vot­ed no on the bill: Mari Leav­itt and Bri­an Blake.

Four­teen Repub­li­cans vot­ed aye: Matt Boehnke, Kel­ly Cham­bers, Richard DeBolt, Mary Dye, Car­olyn Eslick, Chris Gildon, Kei­th Goehn­er, Paul Har­ris, Nor­ma Smith, Mike Steele, Luanne Van Wer­ven, Jim Walsh, Alex Ybar­ra, and Jesse Young.

ESSB 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. Now, at last, with just a few days to go until Sine Die, the House has con­sid­ered the bill and resound­ing­ly passed it.

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.

On he oppo­site coast, law­mak­ers in New Jer­sey are cur­rent­ly con­sid­er­ing a ban on sin­gle use, dis­pos­able bags (both plas­tic and paper).

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.

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.

But we can change. And we must.

This bill gets us one step clos­er to build­ing a more sus­tain­able soci­ety that rejects the mantra of use it once and throw it away. We will con­tin­ue to work in sup­port of this bill until we get it in front of Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee for his signature.

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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