Carryout Bags

Effective January 1, 2018

CarryoutBagBannerv2

Here's what the code does

:
  • Requires all Ellensburg retail stores to charge $0.05 per bag for each plastic or paper carryout (shopping) bags.
  • Requires retail stores to show all bag-charges on customer receipts; stores keep all revenue. The bag is a taxable purchase (per Washington Department of Revenue).
  • Allows retail stores to provide carryout bags made of plastic 2.25 mils or thicker, with or without charge at their discretion.
  • Promotes reusable carryout bags as the best alternative to single-use plastic bags.

Exempt from the code

:
  • Plastic bags used in stores for bulk items or to protect vegetables, meat, fish and poultry, frozen foods, flowers, deli foods and similar where moisture would be a problem are exempt.
  • Plastic bags for take-out orders from restaurants are allowed, though use of recyclable paper bags is encouraged.
  • Dry-cleaner, newspaper, and door-hanger bags.
  • Customers participating in the WIC, TANF, SNAP or FAP 

CARRYOUT BAG FAQS

GENERAL INFORMATION

WHAT ARE THE NEW CARRYOUT BAG REGULATIONS?
Customers who are provided carryout plastic and paper grocery shopping bags by retail establishments will be charged of 5 cents each at the checkout stand.

WHAT BAGS ARE REGULATED BY THE CARRYOUT BAG ORDINANCE?
Paper grocery shopping bags are defined as a bag larger than 882 cubic inches, known as one-eighth barrel in the grocery trade. As a rule of thumb, a bag that has a flat bottom greater than 6 inches by 10 inches is subject to bag charges. Plastic shopping bags are those bags used for carryout items that are less than 2.25 mils thick.

WHAT BAGS ARE EXEMPT FROM THE CARRYOUT BAG ORDINANCE?
Exemptions to the regulation include plastic bags used by consumers inside stores to package bulk items, such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, candy, greeting cards or small hardware items such as nails, bolts or screws, contain or wrap frozen foods, meat or fish regardless of whether they are prepackaged, contain or wrap flowers, potted plants or other items where dampness may be a problem, contain unwrapped prepared foods or bakery goods, contain prescription drugs.

WHAT IS THE CHARGE PER BAG AND WHO GETS THE MONEY?
The per bag charge is 5 cents. Retailers retain the funds generated from the bag charge.

WHY DID THIS REGULATION GO INTO EFFECT?
Following a request from citizens, the City’s Environmental Commission studied the issue of options/advice on how best to proceed with a potential plastic bag ban. Ultimately, under the direction of City Council, a “ban” was rejected but a carryout bag ordinance that applies to both plastic and paper bags was adopted in November 2016 with a delayed effective date of January 1, 2018. For more information, view this history of carryout bag ordinance. A copy of the full ordinance is here.

WHICH STORES ARE AFFECTED?
Most retail establishments are subject to the new requirements, as example clothing stores, jewelry stores, grocery stores, pharmacies, home improvement stores, home decor stores, liquor stores, convenience stores, gas stations, restaurants, food vending trucks, farmers markets, and temporary vendors of food and merchandise at street fairs and festivals.

WHAT BUSINESSES ARE EXEMPT FROM REGULATION?
Food banks and food assistance programs are exempt.


CUSTOMERS



 I SHOP IN ELLENSBURG, BUT I DON’T LIVE HERE. DO I HAVE TO PAY THE BAG FEE?
If you opt to receive a retailer supplied bag, yes, you would be subject to the 5 cent per bag fee. You can avoid the charge by bringing your own bags on your shopping trips.

ARE ANY CUSTOMERS EXEMPT FROM REGULATION?
Yes, stores must provide reusable or paper bags at no charge to customers participating in state or federal low-income food assistance programs, such as customers using vouchers or electronic benefits cards issued under the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) support programs, or the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly “Food Stamps,” also known as Basic Food), or the Washington State Food Assistance Program (FAP).

HOW DO I PROVIDE FEEDBACK TO THE CITY ABOUT THE CARRYOUT BAG ORDINANCE IMPLEMENTATION?
Visit our website at https://ci.ellensburg.wa.us/carryoutbags. You’ll find a feedback form on the landing page.


RETAILERS



CAN RESTAURANTS, GROCERS’ DELI COUNTERS OR BAKERIES PROVIDE PLASTIC BAGS FREE OF CHARGE?
Yes, for takeout food. A bag used to protect a purchased items from damaging or contaminating other purchased items when placed in a recyclable paper bag or reusable bag, such as prepared takeout foods or prepared liquids intended for consumption away from the retail establishment are not subject to the 5 cent charge. However, if the items being purchased are not prepared food that can leak or be spilled (i.e., cook books, t-shirts, bottled salad dressing, etc.), and a customer requests a plastic or paper carryout bag, the retailer must collect 5 cents per bag.

The Ellensburg City Code Section 5.64.040 Definitions - defines as follows “Plastic carryout bag” means any carryout bag made from plastic or any material marketed or labeled as “biodegradable” or “compostable” that is less than 2.25 mils thick.  The ordinance requires that plastic carryout bags be charged at $0.05 per each.  Plastic bags larger than that are 2.25 mils or thicker do not meet the definition of “plastic carryout bag”; and are therefore, are exempt from requirement to charge the $0.05 fee. Likewise, the $0.05 fee applies to “recyclable carryout paper bags” that are one-eighth barrel (882 cubic inches) or larger (this is generally the size of grocery bags provided by supermarkets).  Therefore, smaller size paper bags would not be subject to the charge.

CAN A RETAILER JUST NOT CHARGE THE CUSTOMER THE PER BAG FEE?
No. The 5 cent charge must be collected. The City ordinance requires the charge for all qualifying plastic and paper bags at all retail establishments. Only exempt bags and eligible customers can receive free bags.

WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR NOT COMPLYING WITH THE NEW REQUIREMENTS?
The ordinance has escalating enforcement options, which starts with a notice of violation (warning) which may then escalates to issuance of a civil infraction. Non-compliance acts reported to the city are investigated. First-year efforts to introduce the new requirements, however, will focus on business and customer education and incentives to promote the use of reusable bags.

HOW WILL CUSTOMERS KNOW ABOUT THE BAG CHARGE?
Retailers subject to the collection of the carryout bag charge must post signage clearly indicating the per bag charge for retailer supplied carryout plastic and paper bags. In addition, the bag charge must appear on the customer receipt.