Washington state passes recycled content mandate, EPS ban
Washington state legislators have passed one of the country's more far-reaching measures mandating recycled content in plastic bottles and trash bags, as well as banning some polystyrene foam packaging.
Supporters see the legislation, which was adopted by the state Senate April 19 and now heads to the desk of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, as giving a shot in the arm to recycling markets by requiring post-consumer resin in beverage bottles and trash bags starting in 2023.
It would also add Washington to the list of states restricting expanded PS packaging. It would ban EPS void filling packaging like packing peanuts in 2023, and then a year later, ban EPS foodservice packaging and portable coolers.
The American Chemistry Council's plastics division urged Inslee to use a line-item veto and remove the EPS ban, calling it a "step backward" that would see EPS replaced by alternatives that are worse for the environmental.
"Legislators should instead focus on creating the infrastructure to recycle EPS and help create a more circular economy," said Joshua Baca, ACC's vice president of plastics. "The ban would force the replacement of EPS with alternatives that are often more costly and have greater environmental impacts."
He said EPS manufacturers offered alternatives to the ban, such as including recycled materials in EPS packaging, and argued that with the state's economy recovering from the pandemic, the government should not adopt measures that put a financial strain on consumers and businesses.
Environmental groups praised the measure, and both they and the Association of Plastic Recyclers said they believe Inslee will sign the legislation.
"We anticipate and hope Gov. Inslee will sign the bill," said Alex Truelove, zero waste program director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
Inslee vetoed a similar recycled-content bill last year, saying at the time he was worried about the potential impact of COVID-19 on the state's budget.
U.S. PIRG said if Inslee signs it, Washington would be the seventh state to ban EPS takeout containers and the fourth in the last 13 months.
"Washington's ocean habitats, waterways and wildlife are among the state's most important treasures," said Mandy Apa, campaign associate for Environment Washington. "Nothing we use for five minutes should pollute our planet for generations to come."
The legislation passed the Senate on a 31-18 vote on April 19, after passing the House 73-24 April 7.