NW REporter

Free litter bags offered to help put litter in its place

Roadside litter isn’t just an eyesore – it’s expensive and hazardous, causing hundreds of car crashes every year, according to Washington’s transportation and ecology departments.

In hopes of reducing an estimated 18 million pounds of litter (yes, more than 9,000 tons!) that accumulate annually onto the state’s roads, parks and other green spaces, these agencies are offering free litter bags.

Dubbed “Simple as That,” the campaign features a giveaway to promote litter prevention that is underway in partnership with Fred Meyer stores statewide. The free bag is available at all 59 stores’ customer service counters while supplies last. There is a limit of one bag per customer. Customers are invited to take a survey for a chance to win a $100 Fred Meyer gift card.

Despite spending millions of dollars for cleanup efforts every year, the state is only able to collect a fraction of the litter. Most commonly found items are discarded food wrappers, snack bags and cigarette butts, according to Ecology officials.

A Department of Ecology survey in 2021 found close to 75% of Washingtonians do not litter, and about a quarter of respondents said they would stop if someone they knew asked them. People surveyed said not having a trash bag in the car was the main reason why they littered. In another statewide study conducted earlier this year, researchers found more than 24,000 discarded items per mile along urban interstates.

Officials note many types of litter, like cigarette butts, leach harmful chemicals into the environment. Researchers note the COVID-19 global pandemic has “drastically increased the amount of litter, particularly for certain types of products such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and single-use packaged items. In a paper published in Scientific Research, the authors reported it “may take weeks to even hundreds of years for different types of litter to be completely decomposed in nature, and many different species can be harmed during the litter’s so-called after life.”

“Litter adds up when we don’t make simple choices to properly dispose of garbage. It damages our environment, hurts wildlife, and threatens public health, safety and our economy,” said Gov. Jay Inslee.

By putting litter in its place, such as a car litter bag, motorists can help keep the Evergreen State healthier, tidier, and litter free.