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Washington State Legislature Passes Minimum Recycled Content Bill

May 13, 2021

The Washington State legislature has passed a bill that establishes minimum recycled content requirements for certain plastic products, prohibits the sale and distribution of certain expanded polystyrene products, and limits the distribution of single-use plastic products by food service establishments. The bill also establishes registration and reporting requirements for manufacturers of certain plastic products.

More specifically, Washington’s SB 5022 requires the incremental increase of recycled content in plastic beverage containers, trash bags, and bottles for household and personal care products. The bill defines “plastic beverage container” as “a bottle or other rigid container that is capable of maintaining its shape when empty, comprised of one or more multiple plastic resins designed to contain a beverage.”  Certain exceptions apply, such as refillable beverage containers and rigid plastic containers used for medical devices, drugs, and dietary supplements. In addition, liners, caps, corks, closures, labels, and other items added externally or internally, but otherwise separate from the structure of the bottle or container, are also exempted.

The bill establishes staggered compliance dates for the recycled content requirements. For example, covered plastic beverage containers must be made from 15% postconsumer plastic by 2023, but the recycle content increases to 25% by 2025, and 50% by 2027. The producer registration deadline for these products is April 1, 2022, and the producer annual report is due by April 1, 2024.

With respect to expanded polystyrene, the bill bans the sale and distribution of packing peanuts beginning June 2023. Most portable coolers, food service ware, and containers are prohibited beginning June 2024. 

The bill sets civil penalties up to $1,000 for each day of violation of registration, reporting, and labeling requirements. Before assessing a penalty, however, the Department of Ecology must issue at least two notices of violation.

The bill was delivered to Governor Jay Inslee on April 26, 2021.