Single-use plastic and paper bags being eliminated at Washington military commissaries

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This summer all military commissaries in Washington State — including at Bremerton and Bangor — will no longer issue single-use plastic and paper bags, according to the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) in Virginia.

Though the supermarkets on base will start to do so nearly three years after Washington State law began banning single-use shopping bags in 2021, commissaries in Washington and California are the third areas where DeCA implemented the policy, officially starting June 30. Commissaries in Guam first stopped providing single-use paper and plastic bags on March 15, followed by those in Hawaii on April 30 and California and Washington on June 30, according to DeCA.

“DeCA is committed to complying with applicable local, territorial and state laws restricting the use of plastic and paper single-use bags,” John Hall, DeCA Director and CEO said in a statement when the agency announced the change in Hawaii in mid-March.

“We plan to implement a phased approach to eliminate single-use bags that takes into account our patrons’ needs and logistical limitations,” Hall said. DeCA intends to adapt its approach based on each location’s needs and legislative environment until all stores in the agency have discontinued single-use bags, according to the agency.

Commissaries are supermarkets on base that only allow active duty, retirees, National Guard and Reserves and their family members, and disabled veterans to shop. DeCA runs 235 commissaries on military installations around the world, according to DeCA’s website.

Customers are encouraged to bring their own reusable bags from home or purchase reusable or hot/cold bags from the selection available at each store, a DeCA spokesperson Keith Desbois said in an email.

“The lowest price on a reusable bag will be $0.35 for now, but there are other reusable bags available for sale at a higher retail price,” Desbois said.

Currently, there are seven commissaries in Washington State. Besides the two at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton and Bangor, others are located at Fairchild Air Forced Base, Lewis Main, McChord Field, Smokey Point and Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, according to the agency.

In October 2021, Washington State started prohibiting single-use plastic carryout bags at retail outlets. The law requires businesses to charge customers eight cents for each thick reusable plastic carryout bag or large paper carryout bag. The $0.08 is kept entirely by the merchant to provide an incentive for people to bring their bags and to recoup the costs for the more durable compliant bags, according to the Washington State Department of Ecology.

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