Zero Waste Washington Summer Quarterly Enewsletter August 2017:   Plastics Summit, Solar Panel Recycling, Trash Art and more


In this issue: Plastics Summit, Solar Recycling, Trash Art at Point Defiance Zoo, Strawless September, Reuse Contest, Phone Book Opt-Out, and Mercury Light Recycling Fee Increases


You are invited: Plastics Summit, September 25th

Did you know that by 2025, our oceans are on track to contain
1 pound of plastic for every 3 pounds of fish
- recent Ellen MacArthur Foundation report.

Plastics are everywhere and their impacts and management are a growing concern:  plastic single-use food serviceware, new flexible packaging displacing traditional recyclables for food and in e-commerce, low value plastics in the recycling stream, curbside recycling contamination, lack of markets for recyclables, marine debris and micro plastics to name a few! Tackling ,the plastics challenges will take innovation.  Many efforts are going on around the pacific NW and nationally.

You are invited to a Plastics Summit: Dialogue about challenges and opportunities on September 25th in Tukwila. You will hear from top experts about microplastics in our local waters, current trends in packaging, and plastics composition/contamination issues.

Here are the details:
DATE and TIME: September 25, 2017, 9:00 AM- 4:00 PM

LOCATION:  Tukwila Community Center, 12424 42nd Ave S, Tukwila, WA 98168

The goal of the Plastics Summit is to present technical, scientific, and up-to-date information about current issues, challenges and opportunities regarding plastics.  The day brings together local and national scientific researchers, agency staff, industry reps, K-12 teachers, students, elected officials, and interested public in a cross-sector dialogue. The organizing themes of the day will be three topics of current concern and interest:

  • Microplastics in regional waters: Microplastics research results in the Pacific NW. Speakers include Peter Ross, Vancouver Aquarium; Peter Hodum, University of Puget Sound; Julie Masura, UW Tacoma; and Kathy Conn, US Geologic Survey.  
  • Packaging: Current trends, hot topics, barriers and challenges for flexible packaging, and innovations by businesses. Speakers include Nina Goodrich, Sustainable Packaging Coalition; David McLain, Printpack; and Sego Jackson, City of Seattle.
  • Plastics Composition/Contamination Issues:  Recyclability issues, compostability, bioproducts, additives. Speakers include Karl Englund, WSU; Dennis Denton, Denton Plastics; Katie Pelch, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange; Bill Orts, Western Regional Research Center, USDA-ARS; and Susan Thoman, Compost Manufacturing Alliance

The keynote presenters will be:

  • Nina Goodrich, Director of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition & Executive Director of GreenBlue. Nina leads research and promotes principles of sustainable materials management for packaging innovation.
  • Dr. Peter Ross, Vancouver Aquarium.  Peter has been one of the lead researchers on toxic chemicals in orcas and has recently been studying microfibers in the marine environment.


Includes lunch and snacks
In advance:
       General: $45.00  
       NGO/volunteer: $25.00.  
       Students: $10.  
       Teachers: Free
At the door: $60.00 (Walk-in registration)
Please register here:

BIG THANKS TO THE PLANNING COMMITTEE:   Sego Jackson and Pat Kaufman, Seattle Public Utilities; Kris Beatty and Lisa Sepanski, King County; Alli Kingfisher, WA State Department of Ecology; Sydney Harris and Anya Savrasov, US Environmental Protection Agency; Hannah Johnson, HumanEco Design & Consulting; Marie Novak, Cascadia Consulting; Ashley Bolden, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange; and Heather Trim and Eva Dale, Zero Waste Washington.

Thank you to
Seattle Public Utilities, King County, Cascadia Consulting Group and WSRA for their sponsorship support of this event!

Scholarships available for this event.  If interested of if you have any other questions, contact Heather at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Big news! Washington State passes the first solar module recycling bill in the US

While some progress was made in the 2017 state legislative session on medicine takeback and e-waste legislation, there was a big success in solar recycling.  As part of the ESSB 5939 – the Solar Incentives Job Bill (that incentivizes solar unit ownership and creates jobs in the local renewable energy industry), solar module recycling will now be required for units sold after July 1, 2017.  This stewardship requirement is a first in the nation and was championed by State Rep. Norma Smith (R-Clinton).

Zero Waste Washington worked with the Northwest Product Stewardship Council in drafting policy language over the past two years and helped advocate for solar recycling to be kept in the bill as pressures mounted for the language be removed from the final version signed by the governor.

The law requires manufacturers to finance and manage a product stewardship program that ensures used solar units are recycled.  We hope the required program will be a model for programs in other states.  

Manufacturers who sell solar units in the state of Washington after July 1, 2017, will be responsible for financing and providing a recycling program for their units. Furthermore, manufacturers who do not provide a recycling program cannot sell solar modules after January 1, 2021.

The recycling requirement covers:
•    Solar modules used on or in buildings
•    Freestanding off-grid power generation systems such as water pumping stations
•    Electric vehicle charging stations
•    Solar fencing, solar-powered signs and solar-powered street lights

Learn more about the new law in the Northwest Product Stewardship Council's press release.

Fabulous plastic trash art at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium: Family outing report from our board chair

 By Nanda Guajardo

fish from recovered plastic

fish art from plastic waste

Earlier this summer I took my family to the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma. While we were enamored with the up close polar bear viewing, a ride on a camel, and the story about the arctic fox that recently jumped the fence and ended up in a local neighbor’s backyard, the exhibit with the most impact didn’t move at all.  

penguin from found plastic

close up of penguin made of plastic waste

Giant sea creatures made entirely of plastic trash welcomed us to the grounds, and instantly impressed on all of us the sheer quantity and absurdity of all the plastic pieces polluting our local waterways.

Artist Haseltine Pozzi and her team have created 70 huge animal sculptures from 20 tons of found plastic trash that had washed up on Oregon’s coast. Ten are at the Point Defiance Zoo in an exhibit called “Washed Ashore, Art to Save the Sea” (

My daughter Mathilde’s sad face at the octopus sculpture pretty much sums up our collective feelings. The pieces in the exhibit were scarily beautiful and creatively called us all – young kids to adults - to action.

seal made of plastic waste

Mathilde and Octopus made of waste plastic
If you go
The exhibit will be at the Point Defiance Zoo through October 21, 2017.  

Hours: 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, May 20-Sept. 4

Cost: $17.95/Adults; $13.95/Youth (5-12); $9.95/Kids (3 & 4); 2 & under Free; $2 discount for Pierce County residents and military. Admission includes access to all exhibits.

Participate in Strawless September

There is a growing movement to reduce single-use disposable plastics!

This summer, aquariums across the country, including the Seattle Aquarium and the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, have joined together to phase out most disposable plastic products from bags to straws and plastic bottles as part of the Aquarium Conservation Partnership’s In Our Hands campaign.

Coming up next month, the Lonely Whale Foundation is creating Strawless September in Seattle. They are working with local restaurants and institutions to join in going plastic strawfree for the month. All participating food establishments will be designated plastic strawfree and will receive significant media attention. The goal is to transition restaurants and food establishments to paper straws or better yet, to be strawfree.

Aquarium effort is long term

The Aquarium Conservation Partnership includes 19 aquariums. Initially, the aquariums are shifting away from single-use plastic within their own businesses by eliminating plastic straws and single-use plastic takeaway bags. They have also committed to significantly reduce or eliminate plastic beverage bottles by December 2020 and to showcase innovative alternatives to single-use plastic in their facilities. They are working to convince other institutions, sports organizations and businesses to do the same.

Strawfree Seattle is part of a national effort

HBO Star Adrian Grenier’s nonprofit organization Lonely Whale Foundation is the driving force behind Strawless September. The campaign is the culmination of the Foundation’s Strawless Ocean global initiative, which aims to remove 500 million plastic straws from the U.S. waste stream in 2017.

During the month of September, local institutional partners have committed to incorporating sustainable alternatives to plastic straws in their establishments to support the radical reduction of plastic straw consumption in Seattle. Numerous activations will take place all over Seattle including the Seattle Mariners, Bumbershoot, Seattle Seahawks, Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass, SeaTac Airport and the Port of Seattle restaurants and more.

While multiple sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics exist, Aardvark paper straws is a key partner for Strawless September. The paper straw manufacturer creates flexible, customizable and biodegradable paper straws that decompose in just 45-90 days. Its custom Strawless September paper straw will be available at most campaign events throughout the month.

Find out more about how you can help Zero Waste Washington in efforts to reduce single-use plastics throughout the State, including phase out of products and bans at the local level. Contact Kyla Wilson at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Want to do something fun?  Compete in the 2017 National Reuse Contest

The 2017 National Reuse Contest is underway!  If you have recently finished a project using reused building materials, or plan to complete a project by October, submit it to your local participating store for a chance to win a prize!  The contest is open through October 31, 2017.  Entries are accepted in two categories: Construction/Remodeling and Art/Furniture.  Washington’s local participating stores are: Earthwise Architectural Salvage (SODO and in Tacoma) and The REStore (Ballard and Bellingham).  Find out more at

Are you still getting phone books?  Wish you weren’t?

If you are still getting phone books – yellow or white – you can opt out at this national registry site: Help reduce your carbon footprint and save your local government money.

Costs going up to recycle mercury light bulbs

Zero Waste Washington worked hard to pass the Extended Producer Responsibility legislation that formed the LightRecycle Washington program in 2010 and 2014, which requires that all mercury-containing lights be recycled, as mercury is a potent neurotoxicant. Disposing of mercury-containing lights in regular garbage can cause the mercury to be released if they break.  In addition, recycling lights and other materials preserves our finite natural resources, decreases the amount of waste entering landfills, reduces pollution, saves energy and stimulates economic development.

The manufacturer-provided Mercury-Containing Lights Product Stewardship Program increased the Environmental Handling Charge on July 1, 2017 from $0.25 to $0.50. This Environmental Handling Charge is added to the purchase price of each mercury-containing light (CFLs, fluorescent tubes and High Intensity Discharge (HID) lamps) sold at retail in Washington State. It covers the cost to recycle all lights collected by the program.

This is essentially a good news story.  The main reason the Environmental Handling Charge increased is because of the significant decline in CFL sales between 2015 and 2016 – a 38.5% decrease, which has been a major revenue source for the program.  People have moved away from mercury bulbs and now are purchasing LED bulbs.  LED bulbs have better energy savings and are less toxic.

Because so many of us purchased CFLs and fluorescent tubes in order to save energy, as environmental stewards it is important that we bring them in to retail stores to be recycled as they wear out.  Many people are continuing to bring in fluorescent lights.  This means that collections increased 18.5% from 2015-2016.  So, the fee was raised to provide enough funds to pay for the program.

Find out where to return bulbs at

Mercury Lights Recycling Diagram

Next Year’s State legislative session: Your help needed.

Do you want to help get zero waste bills passed at the state level? If you are on our email list, we primarily send you emails such as this one: our quarterly enewsletter. We are careful to send very few emails per year.

But we could really use your help during the next legislative session in early 2018 to send emails to legislators for important zero waste bills. If you would like to receive email alerts about legislative action – and we promise these will be infrequent – please update your email preferences here:

You will get a confirmation email to request an update to your preferences. Thank you for your help!

Thank you

Thank you for all that you do in your own lives and in the community to help create a zero waste future. Actions you take every day help reduce the amount of waste going into the trash!

Last Updated (Tuesday, 08 August 2017 12:37)