Submitted by the City of Bellingham, written by Riley Grant

Single-use plastics will no longer be allowed in the food, grocery and lodging industries beginning on July 31, 2022 when Bellingham’s Ordinance 2021-05-023 goes into effect. Technical assistance events, online tools and other support is available to help businesses comply with new requirements as the City focuses on education over enforcement.

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 locally impacted businesses make those transitions, the City has partnered with Sustainable Connections to provide technical assistance and outreach.

Sustainable Connections will host a virtual Question and Answer session about the single-use ban on Monday, June 27 from 2 to 3 p.m. and Wednesday, June 29 from 10 to 11 a.mBusinesses can find information about the Q and A event and the ordinance, including resources like a compostable product purchasing guide and “help desk” contact form at sustainableconnections.org/single-use-plastics.

Bellingham’s ordinance supplements two state laws restricting single-use plastics. State Senate Bill 5022 requires that utensils, cup lids and condiments be offered by request only to customers. Under this law, utensils must be offered separately, not bundled, so that customers only receive what they need. Self-serve stations for utensils are allowed. State Senate Bill 5323 replaces Bellingham’s plastic bag ban that had been in effect since 2012.

These measures address a large and growing set of problems caused by the rapid increase in single-use plastics, including the climate impacts of petroleum-based plastic production, growing litter problems and the human and animal impacts from the breakdown of plastic in the environment, and a collapse in the global market for plastic recycling.

To aid with compliance, the City of Bellingham will use an education-first approach to single-use plastic violations. The ordinance specifies that the City will emphasize education and outreach rather than enforcement, to achieve compliance and requires written notice prior to penalties. However, the ordinance prescribes penalties as a last resort for non-compliance. 

For more information, please visit: Single-Use Plastics Restrictions in Bellingham.

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