Washington state lawmakers are debating what would be a new approach in U.S. plastics policy — a massive bill combining producer responsibility, recycled-content requirements and bottle deposits — to dramatically raise recycling rates.
The plan is supported by local governments and environmental groups in the state. One industry group, the Association of Plastic Recyclers, called it a "gold standard" in a Jan. 17 state Senate hearing that had so many people sign up to comment it stretched into a second day.
Other plastics groups, however, raised concerns even while praising the overall goals. The American Chemistry Council, for example, objected to language it said could limit deployment of new plastics recycling technology, an apparent reference to chemical recycling.
The new bill, introduced in early January, comes after lawmakers spent considerable time in 2021 and 2022 debating but ultimately failing to pass producer responsibility legislation.
Supporters of the legislation said Washington needs to follow the four other U.S. states that have passed EPR for packaging laws in the last two years, and they repeatedly pointed across the Canadian border to British Columbia as an example of an older packaging EPR and bottle bill system that works.
The legislation, the Washington Recycling and Packaging Act, could have a big impact on recycling more plastics packaging, including by increasing post-consumer recycled (PCR) content, APR said.
"The bill's powerful combo of EPR, a deposit system and PCR requirements is the gold standard to improve recycling," APR said on Twitter. "If passed, this bill will position [Washington] as a national leader to end plastic waste."