City of Bellingham passed a single-use plastics ban that went into effect on July 31, 2022 and adds to other state legislation aimed at reducing single-use plastics. The ban affects lodging, restaurants/bars/pubs, grocery, and catering. We have partnered with the City of Bellingham to help businesses operate the new legislation and remove single-use plastics from their operations.
Single-Use Plastic Restrictions
Restaurants, Bars, Pubs
State Law & City Ordinance
- Thin plastic bags are prohibited. Reusable plastic or paper bags are permissible if a fee of eight cents per bag is charged. Compostable bags can be provided at no charge. [State law]
- For dine-in service, restaurants must use durable service ware and utensils. An exception is available if hardship can be demonstrated – such as a very small restaurant that does not have room for a dishwasher. [City ordinance].
- For takeout, utensils and condiment packages can be provided only after customer request. [State law].
- Takeout food service ware and utensils cannot be made of single-use plastic. Compostable or reusable wares are allowed. [City ordinance]
- As an accommodation for people with disabilities, flexible plastic straws are to be made available upon request. [City ordinance]
Groceries and Catering
State Law & City Ordinance
- Thin plastic bags are prohibited. Reusable plastic or paper bags are permissible if a fee of eight cents is charged. Compostable bags can be provided at no charge. [State law]
- Grocery stores that have in-store dining or takeout facilities will follow the same rules as outlined above for restaurants. [City ordinance]
- Single-use plastics cannot be used to repackage foods for distribution or sale. Food items prepackaged by a manufacturer and sold at retail are not regulated. [City ordinance]
- The following items are exempt until January 1, 2023. Exceptions can be extended if no or limited alternative products are available. [City ordinance].
- Produce bags
- Catering trays
- Clear food wrap and shrink wrap
- Containers for uniquely shaped foods, e.g., deviled eggs and cupcakes
- Flexible plastic packaging used to preserve moisture and freshness such as for cookies
- Containers or trays for hot meat items such as ribs or rotisserie chicken
- Small absorbent pads under meat or seafood to absorb liquids in the package
- Small plastic bottles less than 6 oz for personal care products (shampoo, lotion, soap) can no longer be provided in rooms.
- Businesses are encouraged to use refillable dispensers.
- As an accommodation for people with disabilities, small bottles are to be provided upon customer request.
All Other Retail Businesses
- Thin plastic bags are prohibited for all purposes. Reusable plastic or paper bags are permissible if a fee of eight cents is charged. Compostable bags can be provided at no charge. [State law]
- Food banks and food assistance programs are not considered retail businesses and are therefore exempt.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who do I contact for enforcement? How will enforcement happen?
Please use this contact form for enforcement-related questions. The City of Bellingham will be using an education-first approach to enforcement.
How do I request a waiver or exemption?
How long is waiver good for?
The waiver will be issued for one year and then the business must be in compliance or file for another waiver.
Do theaters need to comply with this ordinance?
Yes, theaters serving food need to comply with takeout rules. Theaters with a dining area need to comply with onsite dining rules.
Do food trucks need to comply with this ordinance?
Yes, food trucks are considered takeout service.
Can I use down my existing inventory after the ordinance has gone into effect?
No. After July 31, 2022 businesses must comply with the ordinance.
What type of dining are food court establishments?
Food court businesses need to comply with onsite dining rules if food is to be eaten at food court tables and takeout rules if being taken to eat off site.
What does reusable mean?
“Reusable” means designed and manufactured to maintain its shape and structure, and to be materially durable for repeated (at least 1,000 times each) sanitizing in water at 171 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 30 continuous seconds, washing via commercial dishwashing machine, and reuse.
Is aluminum wrap allowed?
Yes, however, it is not encouraged, as food-soiled aluminum needs to be disposed of in the garbage.
Are products manufactured off-site included in this ordinance?
Are products for resale included in this ordinance?
Can hotels/lodging establishments stock rooms with bars of soap?
Yes, bars of soap are permissible, however, refillable soap dispensers are encouraged.