Senator Mona Das introduced the RENEW Recycling Act (SB 5697), which would address problems with Washington’s waste and recycling systems by holding packaging producers accountable for the waste they are creating. Representative Liz Berry plans to champion the bill in the House. Globally, 33 billion pounds of plastic enter the marine environment every year, devastating the world’s oceans, ecosystems, and communities. Plastics have been found everywhere we’ve looked: from the deepest trenches of the ocean and most remote areas of the Washington coast, to the inland rivers in the Pacific Northwest. Plastic production has increased by 2000% since the 1960s, and continues to rise.
Less than half of all packaging and paper waste generated by Washington residents is recycled and the remainder goes to the landfill or is incinerated. Due to market disruptions, problematic packaging designs, and increased packaging from online shopping, operating our recycling system remains unsustainable despite increased investment. Because producers aren’t responsible for the full life cycle of their products, our communities continue to bear the brunt of the costs of single-use and excessive packaging.
The RENEW Act (Renewing Washington’s recycling system and reducing waste) would address these problems implementing an extended producer responsibility system for Washington State whereby the producers of packaging material would pay for the full life-cycle of their products. The bill would ensure that by 2031, 100% of the packaging made or sold into Washington is reusable, recyclable, or compostable, and set recycling and reuse targets that ramp up over time for classes of products including paper, plastic, glass, aluminum, and steel. It would also require clear recycling labeling and set minimum post-consumer recycled content requirements for certain plastic containers and cups.