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WA Governor Vetoes Plastic Beverage Container Recycling Bill due to COVID-19 Costs

April 22, 2020

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee vetoed a bill establishing minimum recycled content for certain plastic beverage containers, citing budget concerns related to COVID-19. House Bill 2722 mandated that beverage manufacturers meet the following minimum postconsumer recycled plastic content, on average, for the total number of certain plastic beverage containers sold in Washington State: 10% starting in 2022, 25% starting in 2025, and 50% starting in 2030. Exemptions were provided for certain plastic containers, such as those for infant formula and prescription medicine. The legislation also pre-empted local recycled content requirements for plastic beverage containers.

In his April 3rd veto message (which can be accessed from the link above), Governor Inslee explained that the COVID-19 pandemic will have a major impact on the state’s economic health and that it is necessary to prepare for the effects of the lost revenue that will result from the pandemic. The bill would have been expected to increase costs for state government by approximately $328,000 in the 2021-2023 budget due to administration and enforcement costs. 

The Washington Senate passed HB 2722 on March 10, 2020, despite concerns over whether there will be enough supply to meet the demand for recycled material required under the bill. Presenters at a February 25 Senate Committee on Environment, Energy & Technology public hearing recommended waiting for the publication of a recycling report, which will provide better information regarding the availability of recyclable materials (see Senate Report on HB 2722). The report is mandated by SB 5397, which was signed into law by Governor Inslee in 2019. It is to be prepared by Washington’s Department of Ecology and is due by October 31, 2020. The report must include information such as: the amount and types of plastic packaging in the state; the cost of managing plastic packaging waste; and the infrastructure required to manage plastic packaging. (For more information on SB 5397, see the PackagingLaw.com article, Washington State to Conduct Plastic Packaging Management Study.)