Packaging isn’t the same as it used to be, according to King County’s Adrian Tan. Transfer centers like the Factoria Recycling & Transfer Station in Bellevue used to process a lot more boxes and cans, and a lot less plastic. Nowadays, everything you buy is shrouded in plastic. Washington needs a new way to deal with it all.
A 2017 Ecology study found that Washingtonians generated 410,300 tons of plastic packaging waste: the equivalent of roughly 112 pounds per person per year. Instead of being recycled, nearly all of it ends up being landfilled or worse. State Department of Ecology crews collected more than 5.4 million pounds of litter statewide in 2022. That litter breaks down and tiny microplastic particles go on to contaminate local beaches and waterways, threatening marine life.
Rep. Liz Berry is helping lead on legislation this session that would bring Washington’s recycling system into the 21st century. The “ReWRAP Act” would expand curbside recycling services to as many as 1.3 million Washingtonians currently without. It would motivate extended producer responsibility, forming a coalition of private-sector packagers and manufacturers to modernize practices and material choices to improve recovery rates. In total, the bill would boost the state’s recycling rate from 40% to at least 60%.