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Here’s how Washington might get consumer bottle recycling, eliminate waste production

By Jack Belcher, The Bellingham Herald
Published: January 5, 2023, 2:15pm

Washington legislators are taking another swing at improving recycling and eliminating waste production in the state, and have introduced a new bill to make it happen.

The Washington Recycle and Packaging Act was presented Wednesday at a Seattle Aquarium event by Rep. Liz Berry and Sen. Christine Rolfes.

“Each year, roughly 400 million tons of plastic waste is produced worldwide. Nearly half of all plastic produced is designed to be used just once and then thrown away. Washingtonians experience this problem first-hand with all of the single-use packaging filling landfills, littering neighborhoods, shorelines, and parks and harming wildlife,” according to a news release from Environment Washington, a statewide environmental advocacy organization.

The Washington Recycle and Packaging Act targets waste in two main ways. The first is to require producers, manufacturers and companies to clean up after themselves, instead of passing recycling costs on to the taxpayers. These companies will be required to fund residential recycling services for packaging and paper products across Washington.

This act will motivate companies to create less waste packaging, and switch to methods that are more environmentally friendly, Rolfes, D-Kitsap County, said at the bill’s introduction event.

Similar programs have been implemented in California, Oregon, Colorado, and Maine.

The second target in the WRAP Act is to create a bottle deposit system.

“This bill creates a path to reduce packaging and paper and make sure what remains is recycled or composted, and does not go to landfills,” Berry, D-Seattle, said at the introduction of the bill. “But I am most excited about our inclusion of a bottle deposit system in our bill, similar to what Oregon has. We’ve learned many months of crafting legislation that if we really want to meet our goals to reduce litter and reach our reduce and recycle targets, and refill targets, Washington must implement this kind of program.”

The bottle bill in Oregon charges a 10-cent deposit when customers buy a bottle from anywhere and people can return the empty bottle to get the 10 cents back. This system was created in 1971 and has been updated over the years.

This is the second recycle bill of this type in as many years to be sponsored by Washington legislators, including Rolfes. In January 2022, the legislature introduced SB 5697 with a similar goal, to improve state recycling and reduce waste by targeting packaging producers and manufactures. However, this bill failed in the state Senate’s Ways and Means Committee.

The WRAP Act may have better odds of being passed, as the legislative session this year is going to be longer. In odd-numbered years like 2023, the regular session is 105 days, in even years like 2022, when SB 5697 was introduced, the session was only 60 days.