In the past few years, our recycling system has been challenged by changing recycled material markets, lack of investment in infrastructure and public education and a patchwork of different policies and processes regarding how we deal with recyclable waste across different communities.
This legislative session, Washington lawmakers are proposing legislation that would make the producers and sellers of products and waste responsible for planning, investing in and establishing a better system for recycling the waste that is produced in our economy.
Senate Bill 5697, primarily sponsored by Sen. Mona Das, D-Kent, would establish a program “for the management of consumer packaging and paper products to be funded and implemented by producers of those products, including recycling and reuse performance requirements, convenient collection service standards, responsible management, infrastructure investments, and education and outreach.”
As currently written, the bill would require that “each producer that offers for sale, sells, or distributes in or into Washington covered products must join a producer responsibility organization that is registered with Ecology,” in this case, a “covered product” is defined as a product sold in packaging.
The producer responsibility organizations made up of stakeholders and representatives from companies that are producing the waste that consumers end up with would be overseen by the Department of Ecology, who would develop criteria for reusable or recyclable products and packaging and then would compel companies to report data on their own products and to enforce that companies are meeting recyclability goals and standards.
Industries will have to comply with recyclability goals for certain materials and companies could be fined for violating recyclability performance standards with their products.
The bill also includes measures that would allow the Department of Ecology to make rulings every five years that include:
– Requiring producer responsibility organizations to fund activities to make convenient recycling collection services available
– Establishing reuse and recycling performance requirements for material categories
– Adjusting the performance requirements based on certain factors, such as market conditions and capacity of infrastructure
The bill, which is sponsored by other Senators from King County districts, including Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, Sen. Joe Nguyen, D-West Seattle, Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle and Sen. Derek Stanford, D-Bothell, is intended to help the state meet its recycling goals such as achieving 100 percent recyclable, reusable, or compostable packaging in all goods sold in Washington by 2025.