Plastic bag ordinance

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Ordinance details and exemptions

Below are some highlights of the ordinance. The ordinance took effect on July 1, 2014 in Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater, and unincorporated Thurston County.


  • Retailers may not provide customers with single-use plastic carryout (shopping) bags, including those promoted as compostable, biodegradable, photodegradable, or similar.
  • Retailers may provide customers with any size recyclable paper or reusable carryout bags.
  • Retailers must charge a minimum of 5 cents for each paper carryout bag of 1/8 barrel (882 cubic inches) or larger. These are typical grocery bags with a flat bottom greater than 60 square inches.
  • Retailers may charge a fee for smaller paper bags or provide them free.
  • Retailers keep all revenue from paper bag fees. The charge is a taxable retail sale.
  • Retailers must show all bag charges on any receipts provided to customers.
  • Retailers may provide reusable plastic carryout bags (2.25 millimeters or thicker) with or without a fee.
  • Paper bags 1/8 barrel (882 cubic inches) or larger must contain an average of 40 percent recycled fiber and display the recycled content on the outside of the bag. Recycled fiber and labeling is encouraged for all sizes of paper bags.

Note: Retailers with existing supplies of plastic carryout bags on site before July 1, 2014 may use them until supplies run out.


  • Retailers may provide reusable plastic carryout bags (2.25 mils or heavier) for free or for a charge. 
  • Customers using vouchers or electronic benefit (EBT) cards from state or federal food assistance programs for grocery purchases are exempt from the 5-cent paper bag charge. Food banks and other food assistance programs can still distribute items in plastic bags.
  • The following types of bags are still allowed:
    • Plastic bags used in stores for bulk items or to protect vegetables, meat, fish and poultry, frozen foods, flowers, deli foods, etc.
    • Plastic bags for take-out orders from restaurants and grocery store delis. Recyclable paper bags are encouraged.
    • Dry-cleaner, newspaper, and door-hanger bags.
    • All plastic bags sold in packages (bags for garbage, yard waste, pet waste, etc.)
    • .

Learn more

Visit our comprehensive Q & A page or read your jurisdiction's entire ordinance:

Contact us

Call Solid Waste Hotline at (360) 867-2491 or Thurston Solid Waste.

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