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Plastic bags bill discussed at statehouse

OLYMPIA – Banning plastic shopping bags throughout the state would keep them from showing up along roadsides, in landfills and in the bellies of whales in the Puget Sound, the sponsor of a proposed ban said Wednesday.

But it would also force people out of work, say representatives of the plastics industry. And it could mean that people taking out wet garbage in paper bags won’t make it to the trash before the bottom falls out, a legislator complained.

The first of at least two bills for a statewide ban on plastic bags got a hearing Wednesday in the Senate Environment Committee, where state Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, also had bills restricting Styrofoam take-out containers and plastic beverage bottles. High levels of plastic are being found in the oceans, and a gray whale that died in the Puget Sound in 2010 had 20 plastic bags in its stomach.

The level of recycling for plastic bags is low, only about 5 percent, she said.

But recycling is low in part because some bags are reused for other things once a shopper carries things home from a store, said Keith Lee of American Retail Supply. The term “single-use” bag is a misnomer, because more than 90 percent of homes reuse them for something else.

Many people use them to line their trash cans, Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, said. If the bags are banned, “what are we going to use?”