Washington State law has told cities like Gig Harbor to "Assume primary responsibility for solid waste management and to develop and implement aggressive and effective waste reduction and source separation strategies."  Gig Harbor has been directed to implement waste reduction in our hometown!

A Gig Harbor citizen recently told Councilwoman Jeni Woock he had the right to take plastic toxic trash and pollute Gig Harbor with it anytime, anywhere. 

 No one has the right to destroy our precious home! No one should claim the right to pollute toxic plastic waste ahead of the health of our communities’ families, men, women, children and wildlife that we all love so much!


  • is the primary source of litter,

  • causes starvation and death in wildlife,

  • is the main pollutant of our water and

  • is linked to some cancers,

but some members of

    the City Council are still NOT convinced. 

Plastic is made from petrochemicals and it is toxic to all life! Those toxins are now being found in our food, making its way into mothers’ milk and our poop. Wouldn’t you be angry if someone poisoned your child?

That’s what plastic pollution is doing to all of us!

Those who are in favor of keeping the toxic plastic garbage are very vocal.  

You can help by telling the council you support the 2 proposed ordinances to reduce some toxic plastic garbage and put the health of our kids #1 in Gig Harbor.  One email reaches the mayor and all the council members:


 On November 13, 5:30 pm at the Gig Harbor City Council meeting there will be a first reading and Public Hearing on  two proposed ordinances for City of Gig Harbor. November 26, 5:30 pm will be the second reading and council vote. 

If you think it is important to reduce plastic from our environment, wildlife and food chain it is vital you attend these meetings.


Not everyone on the council believes we need to reduce the amount of plastic in our community with these ordinances.  Let your kids speak about the urgency to reduce plastic.


These ordinances will be a great step forward in reducing plastic litter and unnecessary plastic waste.  If passed, these ordinances will help protect our water and wildlife and food chain.

Every month in Gig Harbor Albertson's, Safeway, Fred Meyer and Home Depot together order
thin, plastic 2 handle carry out bags.
Every year these 4 stores together order
thin plastic 2 handle bags in Gig Harbor.
The Pierce County Landfill could be full as soon as the early 2030's. It is now urgent we do something to curb plastic waste.
The first ordinance the city will consider is a Reusable Bag Ordinance.  If this ordinance passes it will be effective 6 months after the passing date.

Proposed Reusable Bag Ordinance

Thin, 2 handle Plastic carry out bags over 11” X 12” are restricted.

Large Paper Bags are

5 cents

Smaller Paper Bags

FREE (Charge optional)

What the Requirements Mean         
  • Restricts most Gig Harbor retail stores from providing customers with single-use thin, 2 handle plastic carryout (shopping) bags 11” X 12” or larger.

  • Allows retail stores to provide customers with any size recyclable paper or reusable carryout bags.

  • Requires retail stores to charge a minimum of 5 cents for large paper carryout bags of 1/8 barrel (882 cubic inches) or larger. These are typical grocery bags with a flat bottom greater than 60 square inches.

  • Requires retail stores to show all bag-charges on customer receipts; stores keep all revenue. The charge is a taxable retail sale.

  • Retail stores, at their discretion, to charge for smaller bags or provide them free.

  • Allows retail stores to provide carryout bags made of plastic 2.25 mil or thicker, with or without charge at their discretion.

  • Requires that bags to which the 5-cent charge applies contain at least 40 percent post-consumer recycled fiber and display the minimum recycled content on the outside of the bag. Use of recycled fiber and labeling is encouraged for all sizes of paper bags.

  • Promotes reusable carryout bags as the best alternative to single-use plastic bags.


  • Customers using vouchers or electronic benefit cards from state or federal food assistance programs for grocery purchases are exempt from the 5-cent large paper bag fee.

  • Plastic bags used in stores for bulk items or to protect vegetables, meat, frozen foods, flowers and similar items are exempt. Plastic bags, not compostable, cannot be green or brown tinted.

  • Plastic bags used for take-out orders of prepared food from restaurants are allowed.

  • Plastic dry-cleaner, newspaper and door-hanger bags are allowed but cannot be tinted green or brown. Plastic pet waste bags are allowed.

  • Plastic bags sold in packages containing multiple bags intended for use as garbage bags or to contain pet waste, or food and yard waste bags are exempt.

The second ordinance the city will consider is a Single Use Plastic Serviceware and Litter Ordinance.  If this ordinance passes it will be effective 12 months after the passing date.
  • 91% of plastic waste isn't recycled. And since most plastics don't biodegrade in any meaningful sense, all that plastic waste could exist for hundreds or thousands of years.  (National Geographic)
  • 500 MILLION plastic straws are used EVER DAY in America. That's enough to circle the Earth twice.  (National Park Service)
  • When plastic enters the landfill and it rains, this plastic can shed some of it's toxins into the land, water and run off into the streams.
Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) “Styrofoam” is restricted.
Some Plastic Straws are not allowed
Single use plastic utensils are not allowed
What the Requirements Mean         
  • Food service providers shall be restricted from selling or providing single-use plastic straws, stirrers, cocktail pics and cutlery, for use on or off the premises. 
  • The restriction shall not apply to disposable flexible plastic drinking straws when needed by customers due to medical or physical conditions and for whom flexible paper straws are unsuitable.

  • Food service providers are encouraged to provide plant based, durable, wood or paper straws and single-use utensils only on request.  Yes, there is corn starch cutlery.

Expanded Polystyrene (EPS)

Expanded Polystyrene means blown polystyrene and expanded and extruded foams sometimes call Styrofoam.

Food service businesses shall be restricted from selling or providing raw or cooked food, for consumption on or off the premises in or with disposable plastic food serviceware, including expanded polystyrene food service products.  EPS food service products means food containers, plates, clamshell, hot and cold beverage cups, meat and vegetable trays, egg cartons and other products, made of EPS and used for selling or providing food for consumption on or off the premises.

Exemption:  Prepackaged soups and other food that food service businesses sell or otherwise provide to their customers in EPS containers that have been filled and sealed prior to receipt by the food service businesses. 

Code Enforcement Regulations

Code violations are complaint based.  Education is the desired outcome.

  • If a violation occurs in year 1of the ordinance, a notice of code violation is mailed to the business

  • If a violation occurs in year 2 of the ordinance, a notice of code violation is delivered by the Gig Harbor code enforcer.

  • If a violation occurs in year 3 of the ordinance, a notice of code violation is delivered by the coded enforcer with an option of not more than a $250.00 fine.

Go Green in the Gig

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Gig Harbor considering ordinances to reduce single use plastic carryout bags, single use plastic straws and not allow plastic stirrers, single use utensils and carry out foam containers?

The Gig Harbor Safeway, Albertson, Fred Meyer and Home Depot together, order 192,211 large, thin, single use plastic bags every week. That amounts to 9,962,104 plastic bags ordered by these 4 stores per year in Gig Harbor.

In Gig Harbor lightweight plastic bags, straws and single use plastic items are commonly found in garbage and litter. Their plastic toxins can be washed out of the landfill and escape into our waterways where they remain as a pollutant forever. Some plastic escape to our streams and streets. Fish and other marine animals commonly mistake pieces of plastic and bags for food. When plastics break down into smaller pieces, those microscopic particles may also be consumed by small animals in the oceans and enter our food chain.Because of plastic’s persistence in the environment, the use of throw-away plastic products should be minimized. 

If these ordinances pass:


1.What plastic items are restricted?

Some thin “single- use” and Carry out” plastic bags will be restricted.  This includes plastic bags less than 2.25 mils thick provided at check out of point of sales. Those not allowed are the typical plastic bags with handles constructed of think plastic (less than 2.25 mils think.) Bags constructed of durable plastic (thicker than 2.25 mils) ae considered reusable and are allowed.

Disposable plastic food service ware, including expanded polystyrene food service products such as Styrofoam shall be prohibited.

  • Some plastic straws will not be allowed. Plastic stirrers, cocktail pics and cutlery for use on or off premises shall be restricted to wood, durable or paper.  (The restriction shall not apply to disposable flexible plastic drinking straws when need by customers due to medical or physical conditions and for whom flexible  paper straws are unsuitable..)


1A. I reuse my plastic checkout bags for other things (trash bin liners, lunch, pet waste, etc.). What do I do if these are restricted?

In other cities with similar laws, residents generally find substitutes. Try packing lunch in a reusable bag, go without a bin liner for your small trash bins, and look for pet waste specific bags in grocery stores or in city parks. You may also use empty plastic bags from the newspaper, bread, cereal and other packaged items.


2  What stores does this plastic reduction apply to?

All retail stores of any kind are prohibited from using lightweight plastic carryout bags, and they must charge customers 5 cents each for any large, grocery sized, paper carryout bags used.

Restaurants may use plastic bags for carryout prepared food.


3. Are there any exceptions?

The Food Bank.


4. What about food vending trucks, farmers’ markets, street fairs, festivals and events?

The proposed ordinance specifically includes all these activities among the kinds of “retail establishments” where the use of large, thin,2 handle plastic carryout bags is restricted.Vendors at farmers’ markets may use small bags of any type for vegetables and meat and put these in a paper carryout bag or a customer’s reusable bag.


5. Is there a fee for all paper bags?

No. Stores (and vendors of all kinds including those at farmers’ markets) are required to charge only for larger bags such as typical grocery store carryout bags – technically a bag larger than 882 cubic inches, known as one-eighth barrel in the grocery trade. As a rule of thumb, if a bag has a flat bottom greater than 6 inches by 10 inches, you’ll need to charge for it


6. Can retailers just “eat the cost” of large paper bags and not charge their customers?

No. The minimum 5 cent charge must be collected. It is meant to be a reminder to customers to shop with reusable bags, and for that reason the number of bags and total cost of recyclable paper bags sold must be shown on the customer’s sales slip. The city ordinance requires the charge for all large bags at all stores to ensure a level playing field level among retailers. The law says: “It shall be a violation of this section for any retail establishment to pay [for] or otherwise reimburse a customer for any portion of the pass-through charge.”


7. Are there any restrictions on stores, restaurants, or bakeries choosing to charge a fee on all bags?

No, there are no requirements. This decision is up to the business.


8. What about smaller paper bags?

Stores are not required to charge for smaller paper bags but they may at their discretion.


9. What about low-income customers?

Many low-income customers are exempt from the charge. Specifically, no retail store at any time may charge the 5-cent pass-through fee for large recyclable paper bags to customers having vouchers or electronic benefits cards issued under the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) support programs, or the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly "Food Stamps," also known as Basic Food), or the Washington State Food Assistance Program (FAP).


10. Do stores have to keep track of how many paper bags they sell?

That’s not required by the city ordinance and the city will not audit stores. However, the 5 cent charge on large paper bags must be shown on the customer’s sales slip.


11. Is this transaction taxable?

Yes. The Washington State Department of Revenue has confirmed that the 5 cent pass-through charge is subject to sales tax; retail stores are selling the bags.


12. What is the minimum recycled content requirement?

The only requirement is that larger paper bags – the ones for which a 5 cent charges is required – state that they contain a minimum 40% recycled content.


13. For those labels, are there any requirements for ink color or type size?



14. Does the 40% recycled content have to be post-consumer or can it be industrial?

The large bags must contain 40% post-consumer recycled fiber content.


15. Does the 40% recycled content rule apply to all paper bags?

No. It applies only to the large bags for which the 5 cent charge is required. There is no post-consumer recycled content requirement for smaller bags, but the city encourages retailers to use recycled-content paper bags.


16. Why did the City ban lightweight plastic carryout bags but allow heavy-weight, thicker ones?

The thicker, stronger plastic bags – those more than 2.25 mils thick – have special uses for which paper is not a good option or not readily available; for example, very large bags for bedding and other bulky household items.


17. Are stores required to charge 5 cents for the heavy-weight plastic bags?

No, retailers do not have to charge for the 2.25 mil and thicker bags permitted by the law.


18. What about hanging-garment bags?

Dry cleaner bags are exempt and garment bags provided by retailers would fall under this exemption.


19. Is there a requirement for the heavy duty plastic bags to have recycled content?

No, plastic bags that are allowed are not required to have recycled content, though the city encourages the use of recycled content products whenever possible.


20. If restaurants are selling items other than prepared foods are the bags they use still exempt?

No. If the items being purchased are not prepared food which can leak or be spilled (i.e., cook books, t-shirts, bottled salad dressing, etc.), lightweight single-use plastic carryout bags may not be used.


21. Are grocers’ deli counters exempt like restaurants with to-go food?

Yes, prepared on-site foods such as roasted chicken and soups can be placed in protective plastic bags at the deli counter as needed to prevent leaks or spills.

22. What about bakery goods?

Bags of any kind may be used for individual bakery goods, loaves of bread and other pastries. They are exempt as “in-store” packaging like vegetable and bulk food bags, bags for meat, ice cream, and flowers where moisture would be a problem.


23. How can I tell the city about stores using plastic bags after Nov. 1?

Contact code enforcement by phone ??? or email , or identify the store and date. You can also report if stores are not charging for the large paper bags.


24. How will this be enforced?

The city has always taken an educational approach regarding regulations. If citizens call and complain, the city will send outreach, educational letter reminders. During year 2 a letter and staff will visit to talk to the retailers about the law and explain what’s needed to comply. In year 3,If it becomes clear a retailer is intentionally not complying they may be fined.


25. How is the regulation enforced? 

Enforcement is complaint based.

 The focus of enforcement will be on education in order to achieve compliance.

For the first year, it is enforced by a letter of education.

For the second year, it is enforced by a letter and code enforcement officer visit. For the third year and beyond, if a retailer is reported, an educational visit will be conducted and warning letter issued before the noncompliance penalty of up to $250.00 is considered.



2018 Gig Harbor Sustainability  Coalition    gogreeninthegig@gmail.com