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VICTORY! Trifecta Plastics Bill signed into law

Leaders in our Plastic Free WA Coalition, along with bill champions Rep. Mena and Rep. Doglio pose with Governor Inslee during the bill signing

Campaign Victory!

We are excited to share that Governor Inslee just signed House Bill 1085: An Act to Reduce Plastics Pollution into law. This represents a victory for our Trifecta Plastics Campaign, and is our first coastal victory of 2023 for Surfrider Washington (with more on the way!)

The bill, sponsored by Representative Sharlett Mena (D-Tacoma), passed with broad bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate. This law takes aim at reducing plastic in 3 new ways: 1) it requires new buildings constructed with water fountains to also contain bottle filling stations; 2) it phases out the use of small plastic containers, wrappers, and packaging for personal care items like soaps and shampoo by hotels and other lodging establishments; 3) it bans soft film-wrapped floats and docks and mandates a study of hard-shell foam-filled floats and docks.

Requiring refill stations in new construction to help transition to reusable water bottles 

New construction that requires a drinking fountain (on the right) will also require a bottle filling station (like on the left)

As of July 1, 2024, new buildings where drinking fountains are required must also have bottle-filling stations. Single-use plastic water bottles continue to make the list of the top ten items we collect on our beach cleanups each year. Providing bottle-filling stations will encourage more people to use reusable water bottles instead of single-use plastic ones. It will also support public health by encouraging hydration and providing more free sources of clean, potable water. 

Phasing out mini personal care packaging to help eliminate unnecessary, hard-to-recycle plastic waste 

Toiletry basket | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
Lodging establishments will need to phase out single-use plastic toiletries and packaging and transition towards refillable and paper-packaged products by January 1st, 2027

Lodging establishments will no longer provide personal health or beauty products like shampoo, soap, and lotion in small plastic containers or wrappers. Instead, they can use bulk dispensers or non-plastic packages (such as cardboard sleeves for soap bars, cotton swabs, and shower caps).

Similar laws have already been passed in California and New York as well as local cities like Bellingham and Bainbridge Island.  The change will apply to large hotels with more than 50 rooms beginning in 2024 and smaller hotels, Airbnb’s, and other lodging establishments in  2025. Single-use items may still be made available on request to accommodate persons with mobility or other accessibility challenges. 

Banning foam docks and floats to reduce a major source of plastic pollution in lakes and marine waters 

A foam dock exposed to the environment will leak toxic fragments into our waterways for decades

If you’ve ever been to a beach cleanup, you’ve seen it - bits of foam, scattered along the shoreline as far as the eye can see. For the past several years, small bits of foam have made it to the list of top 5 items collected on beach cleanups. One culprit: foam docks. These large pieces of foam break apart over time, creating a steady drip of foam fragments into our waters. These fragments contain toxic chemicals, harm wildlife, pollute coastal environments, and are impossible to clean up. 

This law bans the sale, distribution, or installation of foam docks and floats in  Washington waters as of June 1, 2024. Many docks use floats that are made of or filled with plastic foam. Foam-free docking - hard pontoons filled with air - is a readily available alternative that can be used in the same applications, at a similar cost. A punctured float can be repaired or replaced without damage to the environment. While there are still a lot of existing foam docks still floating around out there, this bill is a critical step in turning off the tap and stopping this pollution at its source. 

The measures contained in HB 1085 will be implemented on varying timelines. The requirement for water bottle filling stations will be added to the State Building Code by July 1, 2026. Eliminating single-use plastics for toiletries in lodging establishments will happen by January 1, 2027, for establishments with 50 or more units, and by January 1, 2028, for smaller establishments. New rules for soft-film plastic-covered foam docks and other overwater structures will be implemented beginning January 1, 2024, and the study of hard-shell foam-filled and air-filled floats and docks must be completed by November 1, 2025. 

While bans on unnecessary plastic packaging have proven effective in reducing the number of those items we see on cleanups, they can't be the only solution. We could spend a lifetime banning one product after another, but companies continue to make new, different, and often less recyclable ones to fill their place. Ultimately, we need comprehensive policies that incentivize companies to stop using unsustainable products altogether. A bill like the WRAP Act, or some form of Extended Producer Responsibility, is long overdue. The Seattle Times did a great article about this.

Finally, we want to give a shout-out to our partner organizations in the Plastics Free Washington Coalition (Zero Waste Washington, Seattle Aquarium, Environment Washington, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, Latino Community Fund, and Oceana), who led the charge in this and many other plastic policies that will leave Washington's beaches better off for future generations.