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'Bag your bags' King County says of troublesome plastics

If you’re confused about what to do with the plastic bags you get at grocery stores, you’re not alone. 

Many people know that they’re bad for the environment and that they can be recycled, but how to recycle them is another question.

If you want to do the right thing at the grocery store, bring a re-usable grocery tote – obvious, right? But it's not always possible. So, county officials want you know that if you do end up with a plastic bag, there is a way you can redeem yourself.  

“The best way to do that is to actually take your bags back to a store that collects them, for example, QFC, Fred Meyer, Top Food and Drug – those are some of the stores we worked with this year, ” says Karen May, with King County's Bag your Bags campaign.

An expensive problem

May says the thin single-use plastic bags that you get in the grocery store are very difficult for the County and for the trash hauling companies to deal with, because they get tangled up in machinery and it’s expensive to pay for repairs to the machines or for workers to sort them out.

“It’s not just grocery sacks, it's produce bags, newspaper bags, dry cleaning bags ...”

Even bubble wrap and the film that covers things like paper towels  can be tough for the county to deal with, but they’re all things that can be given back to retailers.

Ban back on the scene

Some communities in the region, including Bellingham, Edmonds and Portland have banned plastic bags in favor of paper.

Seattle, which produces more trash than any of those cities, had a plastic bag ban for short time … until voters repealed it, because of concerns about costs to consumers and grocery stores.

Now the City Council is preparing legislation to once again ban these plastics in Seattle.

Environment Washington,  the Surfrider Foundation and the University of Washington Tacoma's Center for Urban Waters released a new report Thursday making the case for the ban. Environment Washington says Olympia, Muckilteo and Lake Forest Park are also actively considering outlawing single use plastic bags.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to