Testimony in support of SB 5323, the Reusable Bag Bill
Bruce Speight, Environment Washington Director
Good morning. Chair Carlyle, members of the committee, my name is Bruce Speight and I am the Director of Environment Washington, a statewide, membership-based environmental advocacy organization. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today in support of SB 5323, the Reusable Bag Bill.
It is estimated that Washingtonians use approximately 2 billion single-use plastic carry-out bags annually. Only 6% of these bags are ever recycled. Plastic bags don’t biodegrade and persist for hundreds of years.
Plastic has been documented in hundreds of species of marine life, including gray whales found washed up on the shores of the Salish Sea, 86% of all sea turtle species, 44% of all seabird species, and 43% of all marine mammal species. Ingesting these fragments is often fatal. Toxic chemicals in plastic can harm animals’ health—and people can ingest these chemicals as they make their way up the food chain.
Nothing we use for a few minutes should be allowed to pollute our oceans and rivers and threaten wildlife for centuries.
Already, businesses and communities are leading the way. In August 2018, Kroger Co. announced its plan to phase out single-use plastic bags and transition to reusable bags across its 15 brands of grocery stores by 2025, starting with Seattle-based QFC in 2019. 27 local communities across Washington State have phased out plastic bags with success. But, we have to do much more to solve this problem.
Moving beyond single-use plastics is something we can do right now. With the passage of this bill, we’ll see a difference in cleaner beaches and parks, and we’ll know it’s making a difference to the wildlife in our rivers, lakes, and oceans. For evidence, we need look no further than the state of California, which banned single-use plastic bags in 2016. According to the Seattle Times, ‘In California, plastic bags accounted for more than 7.4 percent of litter collected on beaches during the state’s 2010 Coastal Cleanup Day. That number dropped to 3.1 percent in 2017, down from 3.4 percent in 2016.’
We thank Sen. Das for sponsoring this important piece of legislation and advancing a policy that would be a huge step forward for wildlife, for our oceans and waterways, for our environment, and for public health.
Let’s choose wildlife over waste. The passage of the Reusable Bag Bill would be a big step forward in reducing the plastic pollution that threatens wildlife and our environment.