There are two new state and one local measures aimed at reducing single-use plastics in Bellingham. Taken as a whole, these measures tackle a large and growing set of problems caused by rapid increase in plastic products that are used once and then discarded. These include the climate effects of ever-growing petroleum-based plastic production, human and animal impacts from the breakdown of plastic in the environment, a collapse in the global market for plastic recycling, and growing litter problems. The local impact of this new legislation is summarized below.
Bellingham’s single-use plastics ordinance
Passed by Bellingham City Council in 2021, Bellingham Municipal Code (BMC) 9.32 aims to reduce single-use plastic products in food service and lodging industries. The ordinance requires that durable food service wares such as plates, utensils and cups be used instead of disposables for on-site dining. The ordinance also prohibits provision of most single-use plastic utensils, straws, plates, containers, and packaging for restaurant takeout or delivery; instead, businesses can use reusable or provide compostable service wear. Lodging businesses may no longer stock rooms with travel sized toiletries such as shampoo, soap and lotion.
To help impacted businesses navigate this ordinance, the City has partnered with Sustainable Connections to provide ongoing support. Sustainable Connections has developed a product purchasing guide and is running a help desk where they can provide support for specific questions businesses might have. Visit their website for more information.
Businesses seeking a waiver for on-premise dining establishments that do not have on-site or off-site dishwashing capacity or businesses requesting an exemption to one or more single-use plastic items can complete the Single-Use Plastic Waste Compliance Waiver or Exemption Request Form.
Enforcement of this ordinance will fall to the City of Bellingham. The City will use an education-first approach to violations, with the possibility of penalties of up to $250 per day for the first 20 days on non-compliance and $500 per day after day 20. Businesses out of compliance may receive a letter noting that they are in violation. To report non-compliant businesses, please complete this form and Sustainable Connections will work with the business on becoming compliant with BMC 9.32.
FAQ for Bellingham Ordinance 2021-05-023
Food Service Businesses
State Senate Bill 5022 requires customer request for utensils, cup lids and condiments
Effective January 1, 2022, State Senate Bill 5022 requires restaurants and food service businesses to only give customers disposable service ware upon request, including plastic utensils, straws, cup lids for cold beverages, and condiments.
Restaurants and businesses providing food service may have single-use items and condiments made available in containers or dispensers for customer selection if desired; utensils must not be bundled together to allow the customer to select only what they need. There are a few exceptions to the provisions; for example, cup lids can be provided without customer request at large public gatherings such as sporting events. For more information on State Senate Bill 5022, please refer to the Department of Ecology’s website.
FAQ for State Senate Bill 5022
Utensils, straws, cold beverage cup lids, and condiment packages can be provided only after a customer requests one. Utensils are not to be bundled together so that a customer is not required to take more utensils than needed.
State Senate Bill 5323 Replaces Bellingham’s Plastic Bag Ban
On October 1, 2021 the State Senate Bill 5323 ban on plastic bags replaced the City of Bellingham’s ordinance that has regulated plastic bag use since 2012. Enforcement of the plastic bag ban will now be in the State’s control.
- Plastic bags will be prohibited at all retail businesses including grocery stores, retail stores, clothing stores and restaurants.
- Retailers who wish to provide a large paper carryout bag must charge a fee of 8 cents per bag and the bags must contain a minimum of 40% post-consumer recycled content and meet composting requirements.
- Retailers who wish to provide a thicker plastic bag (2.25+ mils) must charge a fee of 8 cents per bag and the bags must contain a minimum of 20% post-consumer recycled content.
- For more information on State Senate Bill 5323, please refer to the FAQ or visit the Department of Ecology’s website.
FAQ for State Senate Bill 5323
On October 1, 2021, the State Senate Bill 5323 replaced Bellingham’s Single-Use Carry Out Bag Ordinance.