In July 2018, Seattle became the first major U.S. city to ban single-use plastic straws and utensils. If Senate Bill 5077 is approved, Washington state could follow in 2020.
Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue) is sponsoring the bill. She represents the 48th district, which covers areas of Redmond, Bellevue and Kirkland.
“It’s not going to be the silver bullet solution to all plastic pollution by any means,” she told the Reporter. “But this is a very good start while we continue focusing and discussing on ways to deal with the larger issue of plastic bags and other plastics that are in our oceans and waters.”
Kuderer said she got the idea from an AP Government class at Lake Washington High School.
“After taking a look at it and doing some research of my own, I decided that I would sponsor that bill for them,” she said, adding that she didn’t want to “support a 100 percent ban out of the gate.”
She settled on a phased approach that requires stakeholder outreach, especially with community health groups and advocates for people with disabilities.
“The bill was attempting to balance the need to help our environment and also to not cause unintended consequences to those who really need these straws because of medical conditions,” she said.
The bill requires the departments of health and social and health services to determine how to address the needs of health care facilities and individuals with disabilities by Dec. 31.
“For those of us who don’t need them for medical conditions, I think this is going to be a fairly easy lift,” Kuderer said. “I don’t think we’re going to miss plastic straws much. But the trade off for the environment is really quite significant.”
The bill would prohibit the sale and distribution of plastic beverage straws starting July 1, 2020. Violators would be fined $25 per day after a third violation, but not more than $300 per year.
County health departments would get to keep the fine revenue for enforcement activities, according to the bill.
“I think that we needed to start somewhere, and this seemed like a pretty easy first step,” Kuderer said. “The evidence is there that plastic is choking our waters and our marine life and we need to do something about it.”
Kuderer pre-filed SB 5077 on Jan. 4. After its first reading on Jan. 14, the bill was referred to the Environment, Energy and Technology committee.
The Legislature’s long, 105-day session started Jan. 14. See www.leg.wa.gov for more.