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The City of Renton launched the Bring Your Own Bag campaign in April 2018 to increase awareness of the impact of plastic bags and engage in conversation about choosing reusable over disposable products. This is an ongoing campaign that strives to educate the public with a call to action to bring reusable bags when shopping. When we choose reusable over disposable products, we reduce our waste and footprint on our environment. 

Public and business surveys were also conducted to expand understanding of attitudes toward single-use carryout bags, how they are used and disposed, and tolerance for a policy to reduce their use. The data from the surveys will inform the City’s future efforts to reduce single-use carryout bag use.

For questions, please contact Jina Kim or 425-430-7391.

Why launch the Bring Your Own Bag campaign?

Prompted by interest from Renton residents, the Solid Waste Utility is examining how to reduce the use of single-use carryout bags in the City. The Bring Your Own Bag campaign aims to increase awareness about the impact of plastic bags, start the conversation about choosing reusable over disposable products, and encouraging bringing reusable bags when shopping.

Why are plastic bags an issue?

Plastic bag use is an issue with financial and environmental impacts that affect everyone, whether they use plastic bags or not. In addition to the impact on the local recycling system, plastic bags affect the city’s management of litter and stormwater. They pollute natural areas including soils, streams, rivers and Lake Washington, contributing to environmental degradation of places enjoyed by residents and visitors. Even if disposed of properly, plastic bags are easily carried by wind and released into the environment.

Littered plastic bags often end up in waterways and the ocean, endangering fish and wildlife. Over time, plastic bags breakdown into smaller pieces and absorb toxins in the water. The small plastic particles may be mistaken for food and ingested by marine organisms. The concentrated toxins in the plastic particles then enter and move up the food chain. Despite being designed for temporary use, plastic bags never fully degrade and have costly impacts, leaving a permanent imprint in the ecosystem.

What if I reuse plastic shopping bags?

During checkout, grocery store clerks often provide more plastic shopping bags than necessary. Some plastic shopping bags may be used more than once. But others may not be reusable, despite best intentions, as they tear after one use. If you currently use plastic shopping bags for tasks such as lining trash cans, picking up pet waste or bagging dirty diapers, think about what else can be used instead. For example, plastic bread bags, produce bags, newspaper bags, shipping envelopes and other bags that products come packaged in may serve as good alternatives.

Are plastic bags recyclable?

While clean plastic bags and plastic film are recyclable, studies have shown that most end up as litter or in the landfill. If you have plastic bags that cannot be reused, the best way to recycle clean plastic bags and film is to take them to local grocery stores that accept them for recycling. This minimizes contamination and allows for the collection of clean plastic material that can be recycled. Plastic bags are not accepted in curbside recycling carts as they cause problems and contaminate other recyclable materials at the recycling facility.

What about policies?

While recycling is important, it is not enough. As consumers, when we purchase or use a product, we are partly responsible for its environmental impact throughout its entire life cycle, from production to disposal. In addition, producers need to be held accountable for designing and manufacturing products that minimize their impact on the environment. Increasingly, more legislation is being proposed at local and state levels to prevent waste, reduce environmental impacts, and hold producers responsible. To learn about bills in the state legislature and find out how you can help, visit Zero Waste Washington.

Why not do more litter pick-ups and penalize those who litter?

Putting resources into litter pick-ups takes away resources from other valuable services the city provides. Furthermore, it is difficult to pinpoint who is responsible for a particular piece of litter. Due to their lightweight nature, plastic bags are easily carried by the wind; plastic bags may be littered unintentionally even when disposed of properly. Studies have shown that the most effective way to manage waste is to prevent waste at the source.

What are the best reusable bags?

Reusable bags come in different shapes, sizes, materials and price points. The best reusable bags are the ones that will be used over and over again. Some people like bags that can be folded or stuffed into a small pouch for keeping in their pocket, purse or bag; this type of bag may be easily washed in a washing machine. Some may like thicker bags with more structure that will stand on their own. If a bag cannot be washed in a washing machine, it may be hand washed or wiped down with a disinfecting solution. It may be helpful to try different reusable bags to figure out which type best fits one’s needs. Chances are, many people already own bags or backpacks that can be used to carry groceries, even if they were not designed specifically for shopping. Once you have reusable bags, remember to bring them when shopping.

How do I clean my reusable bags?

See answer for above question.

How do I remind myself to bring reusable bags when shopping?

Think about how you typically get to the store, when you go and what you normally have with you. Keep reusable bags in strategic places such as in your purse, backpack, work bag or car. Hang them in highly visible places like on the inner knob of your house door. If you usually go shopping with someone, ask them to remind you to bring your bags. With practice, remembering reusable bags will become easier.

How do I encourage others to bring reusable bags?

  • Always take reusable bags when shopping. This helps to increase visibility of reusable bags in the community and reminds others to bring or switch to reusable bags.
  • Share with family, friends, neighbors and co-workers why you use reusable bags, what you like about them and how you remember to bring them to the store.
  • Help increase awareness of the plastic bag issue by discussing it on social media and referring people to this page.
  • Ask places where you shop to post free Bring Your Own Bag signs provided by the city.
  • Volunteer at our outreach or recycling and waste reduction events.
  • Want to volunteer or have other ideas on how you can help? Contact Jina Kim or 425-430-7391.

Is the City providing free reusable bags?

The Solid Waste Utility may provide free reusable bags at outreach events. You may also be able find free reusable bags through family, friends or neighbors, or resources such as your neighborhood's Buy Nothing group. For questions, contact Jina Kim or 425-430-7391.

Can I get free Bring Your Own Bag signs for my retail business?

Yes. Remind customers to bring reusable bags by posting Bring Your Own Bag signs on your business doors, windows or other areas where signs are visible from the outside or parking lot.

You may request free printed signs by contacting Jina Kim or 425-430-7391. Requested signs will be mailed or delivered to your business. Please include in your request:

  • Your name
  • Business name
  • Business address
  • Sign size (8.5”x 11”, 8.5” x 14” or 11” x 17”)
  • Number of signs you would like 

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