Olympia, WA — Senator Mona Das introduced the RENEW Recycling Act (SB 5697) on Wednesday January 5th, 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.
“We’re building on the momentum that we’ve established in the last few years – towards sustainability, towards job growth, and towards the bold measures that will protect our earth for generations to come,” said Sen. Mona Das (D-Kent). “This bill is about protecting both our planet and us, as consumers, by asking producers of packaging materials to take on more of the responsibility of stewardship. Once we pass this bill, individual Washingtonians will no longer carry this by themselves.”
The bill would improve Washington's recycling system, reduce marine debris, create green jobs, provide uniform access to recycling for all residents across the state, and reduce confusion by establishing a clear list of what people can and can't recycle statewide.
Representative Liz Berry (D-Seattle) added, “We've proven that Washington is a leader in recycling and reducing waste — and it's time for us to do it again. The RENEW Act is a comprehensive plan that will help us minimize our impact on the environment while maximizing the opportunity our communities have to flourish for generations to come. As the mom of two young kids, it’s personal to me, and I’m proud to be the House champion of this landmark legislation.”
In response, members of the Plastic Free Washington coalition made the following statements:
“Washington has been a leader on reducing plastic waste with the recent implementation of our plastic bag ban and making plastic utensils, straws, and single-use condiment packets available only by request,” states Pam Clough, Advocate for Environment Washington. “We need to continue reducing our dependence on materials that aren’t reusable, compostable, or easily recyclable, and the RENEW Act will help Washington get there.”
“Plastic production from fossil fuels directly contributes to the climate crisis, harming communities and our fragile marine ecosystems,” adds Nora Nickum, Ocean Policy Manager at the Seattle Aquarium. “This policy will incentivize producers to cut excess packaging and design for reuse and recyclability, thereby reducing emissions and protecting our planet.”
"Washingtonians know that we live in a beautiful state and they don't want to see it trashed. People want to do the right thing by recycling, but unfortunately as it stands today, communities like the Washington coast and Olympic Peninsula don't have access to convenient recycling," says Gus Gates, Washington Policy Manager with The Surfrider Foundation. "Passage of the RENEW Act will be a major step in the right direction to helping ensure that all Washingtonians have access to recycling."
“The RENEW Act has the potential to keep thousands of pounds of packaging waste out of Washington’s waters and communities,’ says Alyssa Barton, Policy Manager at Puget Soundkeeper Alliance. ‘We thank Senator Das and Representative Berry for their leadership in championing this exciting new policy for Washington State.”
“Plastics frequently make their way into our ocean,” says Sara Holzknecht, Washington Field Representative for Oceana, “harming marine life and threatening the health of the coastal ecosystem. This bill offers a solution that will move Washington away from this pervasive pollutant and towards reusable alternatives.”
“A statewide EPR program through the RENEW Act would help Washington increase recycling by more than 40% and contribute $206M to our state’s economy, says Giovanni Severino, Lead Policy Organizer, Latino Community Fund of Washington. “And critically it will create over 1,650 green, living-wage jobs for our communities.”
"Waste and packaging pollution has an impact on Washingtonians' lives everyday, clogging our landfills, littering our streets and polluting our waterways," states Nicole Walter, WashPIRG Advocate. "The RENEW Act gives us an opportunity to continue to make Washington a leader in tackling our plastic waste problem, and to keep unnecessary pollution out of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat."
“Washington’s recycling rate has been stagnant for over a decade and remains below 50%,” says Heather Trim, Executive Director, Zero Waste Washington. “An Extended Producer Responsibility policy for packaging and paper products will turn our recycling system around and deliver substantial economic, social, and environmental benefits.”
Plastic Free Washington Coalition/ Washington Sin Plástico members:
Environment Washington Environment Washington is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization working for a cleaner, greener, healthier future.
Latino Community Fund of Washington The Latino Community Fund cultivates new leaders, supports cultural and community based non-profit organizations, and improves the quality of life for all Washingtonians.
Oceana Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one third of the world’s wild fish catch.
Puget Soundkeeper Puget Soundkeeper’s mission is to protect and enhance the waters of Puget Sound for the health and restoration of our aquatic ecosystems and the communities that depend on them.
Seattle Aquarium Our mission: Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment.
Surfrider Foundation The Surfrider Foundation is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches, for all people, through a powerful activist network.
WashPIRG WashPIRG is an advocate for the public interest. We speak out for a healthier, safer world in which we’re freer to pursue our own individual well-being and the common good.
Zero Waste Washington Zero Waste Washington drives policy change for a healthy and waste-free world.