If you have found your way to this blog you are probably concerned about the effects of plastic pollution on our waterways. Last year, Surfrider and our Plastic Free Washington / Washington Sin Plástico Coalition worked hard to support the WRAP Act, an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) bill that ultimately did not pass. For next year's legislative session, we are trying again, with a new bill and updated strategy.
Worldwide, we produce almost 400 million tons of plastic waste annually—and nearly half of all plastic produced is intended to be used just once and then thrown away. Here in Washington, our recycling systems have not been able to keep up with the influx of plastic and paper packaging flooding into our homes and environment - only 17% of plastic packaging waste is actually recycled, while at the same time, our recycling bills have increased up to 30% in the past five years. Even access to recycling services is not what it could be - many residents must pay extra for it, and residents of 11 counties have zero access to curbside recycling services. All this waste costs us - in Washington, more than 50% of all consumer packaging and paper products are landfilled or incinerated, wasting an estimated $104 million in valuable materials.
RE-WRAP Act: Washington Recycling and Packaging Act 2.0
Last year the WRAP Act failed to pass the House of Representatives, but this year we are reintroducing similar legislation thanks to our bill's sponsor and champion, Rep. Liz Berry. The Re-WRAP Act will do a number of things to reduce litter and improve recycling rates and access across the state:
- Incentivize producers to make reusable, recyclable, or compostable packaging
- Reduce pollution causing climate change - higher use of recycled content in packaging materials means fewer emissions and less energy
- Provide universal recycling services for Washingtonians - all residents who currently have curbside garbage pickup will receive curbside recycling service
- Reduce confusion and contamination by developing a clear list of universally recycled products
- Reduce packaging and increase reuse - targets will be developed for increased recycling rates as well as reuse and refill
- Support Washington’s economy and the creation of new, green jobs by building local supply chains and recycling businesses
EPR Exists Elsewhere
Companies have been complying with Extended Producer Responsibility programs in other parts of the world since as far back as the 1990s, including the European Union and Canada. Some states in the US (California, Colorado, Maine, and Oregon) have passed producer responsibility programs for packaging and paper, and more states are considering passing similar legislation. You can learn more about EPR from our EPR Factsheet.
In Washington, more than 50 percent of our consumer packaging and paper goes to landfills rather than being recycled. The ReWRAP Act addresses this complex issue by creating a set of graduated fees for packaging manufacturers based on the recyclability/sustainability of their packaging - the less recyclable the product, the higher the fee. The funding generated from these fees will be invested in our recycling system in Washington, including improvements in infrastructure, uniform access to recycling for residents across the state, and a harmonized list of what people can recycle - thus shifting the costs of the recycling system from ratepayers to manufacturers.
How can you help?
The legislative session begins on January 8th this year, and there are several ways that you can help spread the word about the ReWRAP Act both right now and in the coming weeks.
Tell your legislators to support the ReWRAP Act
1. You can email or call your legislators at any time - check out District Finder to find your elected and how to contact their offices directly. Your message should be simple and concise - "Please help eliminate plastic pollution in Washington by supporting the ReWRAP Act and Extended Producer Responsibility in Washington during the 2024 Legislative Session."
2. Speak with your electeds in person during Plastic Free Washington Coalition's Advocacy Day in Olympia on January 15th. If you are interested in coming to Olympia to meet with your legislators, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Call the Legislative Hotline at any time during session at 1-800-562-6000 to leave a voice message for your Representative and Senator in support of the ReWRAP Act.
4. Follow Surfrider Washington's social media and keep an eye on our newsletter for action alerts about other ways you can stop plastic pollution at its source.