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Business Information

The Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance Affects All Retail Businesses Operating in Tacoma

The Bring Your Own Bag ordinance includes grocery stores, convenience stores, department stores, hardware stores, liquor stores, pharmacies, and all others including temporary retailers and vendors such as at farmers markets and festivals. The ordinance only affects businesses within the city of Tacoma limits. To determine if a businesses is within city limits, search for the address on the MyTacoma govME website.Bring Your Own Bag Overview


Reporting Requirements

Each year, from 2018 to 2020, retailers are required to report the number of paper checkout bags they provided to customers. Retailers should report the number of bags distributed between August 1 of the previous year and July 31 of the reporting year. The 2018 reporting deadline has passed. For questions, please contact sustainability@cityoftacoma.org.


Downloadable Resources

Retailer Frequently Asked Questions


Poster - 11"x17" English, Khmer, Korean, Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese

Poster - 8.5"x11" EnglishKhmer, Korean, Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese


Point of Purchase Sign - 4"x5" Pop-up  English, Khmer, Korean, Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese

Point of Purchase Sign - 3"x3.5" Pop-up EnglishKhmer, Korean, Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese

Point of Purchase Sign - 4 Small Signs English, Khmer, Korean, Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese

Point of Purchase Sign - 1 Large Sign English, Khmer, Korean, Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese


Bag Reminder Sign - 8.5"x11"

Bag Reminder Sign - 11"x17"


Bag Reminder Parking Lot Sign - Request by email or phone (253) 591-5172

Bag Reminder Window Cling - Request by email or phone (253) 591-5172


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Bring Your Own Bag (BYOB) law?

The BYOB law is a ban on thin plastic checkout bags (less than 2.25 mils) and a fee on recycled paper and other retailer provided checkout bags. The law is meant to encourage shoppers to bring their own bag rather than buying a new bag each time they shop.


Most disposable plastic bags end up in the landfill or as litter. When customers bring their own bag, they will help reduce waste, prevent litter, beautify our community, and protect marine wildlife.

What checkout bags can I provide to customers?

Retailers can provide paper or reusable checkout bags for a pass-through fee of not less than 5 cents. The fee is paid by the customer for each bag the retailer provides. Large paper bags must be made of at least 40% recycled content, and small paper bags (eight-pound or smaller) must be made of at least 20% recycled content. Reusable checkout bags must be designed for long-term multiple reuse, have handles, and must be at least 2.25 mils thick if made of film plastic.

Can I provide other non-checkout bags?

Other non-checkout bags are not impacted by the law. These include produce bags used to package meat and bulk items inside the store before purchasing, dry-cleaning bags, pet waste bags, tire bags, etc. 

Where does the pass-through fee go?

The pass-through fee is kept by the retailer to offset the cost of providing recycled content paper or reusable bags which are generally more expensive than disposable plastic bags.

Do I have to charge the customer the pass-through fee?

Yes, the customer must pay the fee for each paper and/or reusable checkout bag they receive. A price signal to the customer can encourage them to bring their own bag, instead of purchasing a disposable bag.

Are all customers required to pay the pass-through fee?

Customers who have EBT, WIC or TANF benefits do not have to pay the pass-through fee when they receive a recycled content paper or reusable bag during checkout. These exempt customers must show proof of EBT/WIC/TANF benefits at the time of checkout.

Can restaurants provide disposable plastic bags for takeout food?

Retailers can provide disposable plastic bags for prepared take-out foods and liquids intended for consumption away from the establishment. This is to safeguard public health and safety during transportation of take-out foods. Other items purchased from food establishments, such as cookbooks or collectibles, cannot be carried out in disposable plastic bags.

If I have leftover disposable plastic bags from before the law, can I still give them out?

No. As of July 12, 2017, retailers can no longer give out disposable plastic checkout bags. Tacoma City Council passed the BYOB law in July 2016, giving retailers one-year to use up existing supplies of disposable plastic checkout bags.

How is BYOB enforced?

Enforcement of BYOB is mainly complaint based. Compliance complaints are being facilitated through TacomaFIRST 311. Residents can call 3-1-1 within Tacoma city limits or (253) 591-5000. Or visit cityoftacoma.org/TacomaFIRST311, click Make a Request, click Miscellaneous Solid Waste Request or Complaints from the list, fill out the form and choose BYOB Complaint from the dropdown. The complaint will go to Solid Waste and a staff member will do educational visits/outreach to the store and work with them to get into compliance. After educational visits are conducted, warning letters are issued before the noncompliance penalty of $250 per day is assessed.

Is the bag fee subject to retail sales tax?

Yes. The pass-through fee charged to customers for checkout bags is a retail sale, subject to retail sales tax and the retailing B&O tax. Learn more at the Washington State Department of Revenue's website.