OLYMPIA — Although plastic grocery bags are difficult to recycle, Senate Democrats are hoping to have more luck in recycling a statewide ban on the bags.
On their first day of regular Senate business, Democrats pushed through a proposed ban on single-use plastic bags that passed the Senate but not the House last year. Designed to reduce the amount of plastic pollution, particularly the kind that is washed by streams and rivers into the ocean, it would try to get consumers to use bags multiple times.
It would allow retailers to charge as much as 8 cents for a paper bag or a reusable plastic bag if customers didn't bring their own bags.
Some three dozen cities or towns in Washington have some form of a plastic bag ban, a number that has grown since the Senate began considering the ban last year, Sen. Mona Das, D-Kent, said. The bill would create a state standard if it becomes law.
Republicans also recycled some of their objections that plastic bags from Washington are a miniscule part of the world's plastic pollution.
Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, said he hopes the ban would increase the demand for paper bags and generate more work for timber workers in his district. But Washington residents aren't a major factor in the world's plastic pollution, because most of it comes from Asia.
"This is a feel-good thing ... it does nothing," said Sen. Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn, adding he used to reuse plastic grocery bags as trash can liners and to hold his grandchildren's "poopy diapers" but now has to buy heavier plastic bags for the same purposes.
Republicans also objected to the fact that one section of the bill contains language from last year that said it would be void if didn't get money from a state recycling account by July 1, 2019.
Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, said she was inclined to vote for the bill except for the section that said it was null and void.
She voted, "Nope, not yet." But the bill passed 30-19 and was sent back to the House.
Senate Democratic staff said passing bills the chamber debated and approved in the previous year's session is standard practice even if they have outdated "null and void" sections; the date will be changed and sent back for a final vote if it passes the House.