Washington Packaging Stewardship Activities

graphic of washington senate bill 5022

On May 17, 2021, Governor Inslee signed into law SB 5022 to reduce plastic pollution and improve recycling (final text of the bill as passed).

The new law bans expanded polystyrene (EPS) peanuts, coolers and foodware; requires businesses to provide single-use utensils, cups, lids and other foodware only upon customer request; and ensures that plastic beverage bottles, household cleaning and personal care bottles, plus trash bags, contain minimum levels of post-consumer recycled content. These elements will be phased in from 2022 to 2024.

While Washington is the sixth state in the nation to adopt a statewide ban on expanded polystyrene products, it is also the most far-reaching. The law is also the first in the nation to comprehensively require people to "opt-in" for single-use foodware (utensils, cup lids, and condiments), and the first law to require recycled content in household cleaning and personal care containers.

Read the press release from state Senate Democrats, and the press release from supporting organizations Zero Waste Washington, Environment Washington, Latino Community Fund of Washington, Oceana, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, the Seattle Aquarium, and the Surfrider Foundation. NBCThe StrangerKING5Skagit Valley Herald, and the Surfrider Foundation covered the news.

SB 5022's companion, HB 1118, did not receive a hearing in 2021, but retains its producer responsibility system requirements, and remains in the House to possibly be considered again in the second year of the biennium, 2022.

Watch video of SB 5022's one-hour Jan. 26 hearing in the Senate Environment, Energy, and Technology committee.

HB 1118 would create a circular economy for packaging and paper products (PPP) in Washington, increase the amount of materials that are collected and recycled responsibly, create new markets by requiring producers to use the materials in new products and packaging, enhance the domestic processing infrastructure, reduce greenhouse gases, and create new jobs in Washington. The bill is a paradigm shift from current recycling programs where it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine the fate of recyclable materials that are collected from residents.

HB 1118 builds on the plastic packaging report and recommendations submitted to the legislature in October 2020, which was the result of the study bill passed in 2019. Watch video of the Senate Environment, Energy, and Technology committee's Dec. 1, 2020, 15-min work session reviewing the plastic packaging report and recommendations.

In October 2020, Zero Waste Washington, the Washington Beverage Association, and WSRA hosted an online tour of Recycle BC's residential recycling EPR program, with Washington State legislators and Recycle BC program staff - watch a video recording of the tour.

Tools for Local Government in Washington

More than 45 countries have packaging EPR laws and the U.S. is "the only member nation of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that does not have an industry-financed packaging stewardship program," according to a letter in support from the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI). "Similar programs have been operating with great success in many areas of the world for more than 30 years, including Belgium, which has achieved an 80% recycling rate for packaging, and in British Columbia, which has achieved a 75% recovery rate."

Watch the NWPSC video on why EPR is a solution for the problem of packaging (YouTube):