A bill pre-filed by Sen. Mona Das (D-Kent) would create an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) program in which producers fund and operate an efficient, sustainable system for recycling packaging and paper products including plastic, metal, paper and glass. The bill would require that producers achieve recycling and reuse targets and use recycled content in new products and packaging, overseen and enforced by the Washington State Department of Ecology.
“This bill is about protecting both our planet and us, as consumers,” said Das. “It would shift the cost of recycling from ratepayers to producers. This means the burden would no longer be on Washington families to figure out a confusing and cumbersome recycling system. We should be making it easier – not harder – for folks to do the sustainable, healthier thing for our earth.”
“Washingtonians know how to recycle, and we should be confident that when we put something in the blue bin, it will be reused somewhere else in the economy,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bremerton), a co-sponsor of this legislation. “This bill is a major step toward improving our state’s recycling system and reducing the useless packaging waste coming from our homes and businesses. It will help families save money on utility costs and help local governments save money on disposal costs.
“The legislation builds on a law that was passed in 2019 directing the state to investigate innovative ways to reduce packaging waste, improve recycling rates, and accelerate the use of recycled, recyclable and reuseable packaging materials. It is based, in part, upon the system used in British Columbia.”
The EPR program created by the bill would harmonize a list of recyclable items and establish a consistent consumer education effort across the state, funded and coordinated by producers. Producers would be defined by a tiered list of manufacturers, brands and importers. Local governments would be reimbursed by these producers for the public education costs and the program would provide free, universal recycling services. Residents who currently have curbside garbage pickup would also receive curbside recycling collection at no cost, with free and equitable depots or alternate collection options.
The program would incorporate environmental and social equity principles. Producers would be required to fund curbside recycling for all residents that have curbside garbage service and ensure that everyone has access to convenient recycling drop-off locations in areas without curbside collection.
Cities would be able to choose whether to opt into the program. One available option would be to maintain existing contracts with haulers, be reimbursed by producers, and meet the standards established by the bill. A second option for cities would be to continue the education role, but with producers contracting with local service providers to run the recycling program. Cities could also opt out entirely. Producers would still need to meet their recycling goals.
The bill will be referred to a committee after the 2021 legislative session begins today, Monday, Jan. 11.