Zero Waste Washington drives policy change for a healthy and waste-free world. We envision a just, equitable, and sustainable future where we all produce, consume, and reuse responsibly.
Washington State’s legislative session was different this year in many regards. Even with handling hearings, meetings and floor votes remotely, the legislators were extremely productive. Many environmental bills were passed. We are thrilled to report that SB5022, our biggest priority this year, which was championed by Senator Mona Das and Representative Liz Berry, was signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee on May 17. This bill will help prevent plastic pollution and greatly improve recycling.
SB5022 – Plastics and Recycling Bill
Zero Waste Washington and our many environmental and local community group partners in the Plastic Free Washington/Washington Sin Plástico coalition as well as numerous municipal, county and other partners worked hard for the passage of SB5022. The bill:
- Bans expanded polystyrene (commonly known as styrofoam) foodservice products, coolers and packing peanuts.
- Requires that restaurants and foodservice businesses provide straws, utensils, condiment packages and beverage cup lids only on request or in self-serve bins.
- Requires that plastic beverage containers are made of post-consumer recycled plastic, from a minimum of 15% by weight in 2023 to 50% by 2031.
SB5022 addressed three of the 10 recommendations set forth in a terrific plastics study produced by Cascadia Consulting for Ecology. This study was required by a key bill passed in 2019, SB5397, sponsored by Senator Christine Rolfes. This year’s bill and the Cascadia study all lead up to an omnibus bill to be introduced in 2022 to truly revamp our recycling system and get us to significant waste reduction and real recycling. Stay tuned!
Other zero waste bills
Additionally, a number of other bills related to zero waste made it over the finish line, which can be viewed on our legislative page at: https://zerowastewashington.org/legislative-work/. Here is a sampling of those bills:
- Wheat straw for bags. Representative Skylar Rude from Southern Washington led HB1145 which allows wheat straw to replace part of the required recycled content in paper bags. Fields of wheat straw are burned at the end of the season giving off significant air pollution and black carbon.
- Lead in drinking water in schools.Lead is not safe at any level and is especially problematic for children. Representative Gerry Pollet has long championed the need for sampling and testing for lead contamination at drinking water outlets in school buildings. This year his bill, HB 1139, had strong backing, and was supported by Environment Washington and numerous school district and other partners.
- Adjusting drug-take back law. Representative Strom Peterson did an amazing job leading the Drug-Take Back law for many years – the bill passed in 2018. His 2021 bill (HB 1161) modifies the drug take-back law to allow for multiple product stewardship programs and strengthens physical location take-back requirements.
- Industrial Symbiosis. Championed by Senator Brown, this bill (SB 5345) requires the Department of Commerce to produce a proposal and recommendations for setting up an industrial waste coordination program. It authorizes Commerce to make loans or grants and provide technical assistance for development of projects that encourage and enhance projects to create a cooperative use of waste heat and materials.
Thank you all for your help in moving all of these important bills forward. If you have any questions, please contact Heather at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Zero Waste Washington has just published a new report assessing the current conditions as well as barriers and opportunities to increasing the management of organic waste in Washington. The report – Improving Organic Materials Management in Washington State – includes 37 policy recommendations.
This is an important issue to tackle for the sake of our climate and the health of future generations. A recent UN report highlighted the urgency of the need to address methane, considered a super emitter, by taking action such as diverting organic material from landfills.
Most often, the focus of climate change policy has been on energy and transportation, and now it is time to turn attention to organic waste.
Organic material makes up a large portion of our landfill load
Washington State Department of Ecology, in its 2016 Waste Characterization report, identified that 28.5%, by weight, of our landfill/incineration load is organic material. That is about 1.31 million tons. At the same time, a roughly equivalent amount (1.28 m tons, reported to Ecology) is being composted. Unknown but potentially significant organic loads are handled outside of the permitting system.
Food waste totals 17% of the waste load ending up in the landfill or being incinerated. About half of that is edible and half is inedible. All of these statistics are problematic.
We need to take action to first reduce the waste, then find ways to get edible excess food in the hands of people. Inedible food should be composted, digested to make biogas, or processed using new technologies. Most importantly, we need to avert the climate impacts of the degradation of these material in the landfill which leads to high methane emissions.
A team effort created the new report
The project team led by Nicolás Díaz-Huarnez and Xenia Dolovova conducted a literature review and interviewed 61 organic waste experts in Washington, resulting in an assessment of current conditions and recommendations for action. Big thanks go to the report interviewees and reviewers for generously giving their time to helping frame current conditions and laying out potential solutions. This report was a bringing together of the best thinking of an impressive array of these experts in our state.
Capacity expansion: barriers and opportunities
Current barriers to the expansion of organic waste management facilities in Washington include logistical challenges (such as cost of transportation of heavy organic waste), financial risks in business models subject to external factors, contamination problems in compost from plastics and glass as well as toxic chemicals, and skepticism by farmers and limited end-markets.
Opportunities include innovation and technology advancements, financial incentives related to the new climate bills passed in Washington, and legislative policy models from other states. Many states have already moved in this direction and banned organic material, so some degree, from their landfills.
A set of 37 recommendations address industry barriers and opportunities to create systemic changes that foster organic material management and are summarized in the graphic below:
Next, we will be engaging key stakeholders – waste industry leaders, regulators, academic researchers, and waste consultants – to help create a strong, comprehensive policy proposal to dramatically increase organic waste management capacity throughout the state while at the same time diverting organic material from the landfill. Critically, we need to divert the organics, but not create an unintended consequence of poor quality compost (i.e., full of plastics) or other problems.
Find our new report on organic waste management in Washington at https://zerowastewashington.org/publications/#ReportsStudies (scroll down to Reports and Studies). Mega thanks go to the Sustainable Path Foundation for supporting this report and work.
By Kami Bruner, Waste Reduction Project Coordinator
We’ve all been there. You have a little of this or that left over from a craft project and no rational reason or place to keep it (not to mention the thinly veiled threats from otherwise loving family members about your hoarding habits).
Alternately, you find yourself needing just a small amount of a random thing but simply can’t justify buying a whole box, bundle, or bag of it new.
Washington has a nice array of creative reuse shops and makerspaces ready to come to the rescue!
These stores/spaces are different than your typical art supply stores… and are less expensive
Creative reuse shops and makerspaces are a delight for both kids and craft-inclined adults. They offer all the creative curiosities your heart desires…on the cheap! Scraps of pretty paper, bags of might-have-been Mardi Gras beads, handfuls of Crayon nubs, shiny bits and bobs galore… the stuff (artistic) dreams are made of!
Furthermore, creative reuse organizations beautifully model the circular economy: they offer a next-best-life for surplus stuff, keeping materials available for those who can use them – and just as importantly, out of the landfill.
Many of these items are not easily recycled
Many art supplies, decorative elements, and related materials can’t easily be recycled. Sure, they could go to a general thrift store but are often shoved into overstuffed shelves only to be damaged or never seen again. By contrast, creative reuse stores are able to curate donated goods, so they are more accessible to eager, would-be makers.
With an eye to both sustainability and community, Washington’s creative reuse spaces aim to close the loop by repurposing materials AND close the gaps of affordability/accessibility.
They accept donations from businesses and individuals, then make them available for kids, teachers, makers, and tinkerers – either through outright purchase or for use during creative on-site workshops.
Washington is blessed to have a large number of creative spaces and stores available. If you know of others, please email us and we will add them to our website.
Spokane’s first creative reuse center dedicated to sustainability, community, and creativity. Art Salvage offers a place to donate your usable art materials, a place to buy affordable art materials, and a place to be creative. Because Art Salvage is supported by donations the materials are affordable, always changing and more varied than what you might find in a traditional art or craft store.
The goal of the ReMakery is to educate our community about the value of reduction, reuse, repair, and repurposing items locally to increase the local circular economy. It provides the Lopez community with space, tools and instruction to help transform materials that might have otherwise been exported off the island and to landfill, or far away recycling centers across the globe.
Seattle ReCreative promotes creativity, community, and environmental stewardship through creative reuse and arts education. Proceeds from the resale of these goods helps fund our arts programming and supply free creative materials and workshops to the community.
Founded by two Tacoma artists (one a preschool art teacher, the other a political cartoonist), Tinkertopia™ promotes a definitive sense of planetary resource conservation working with local industries to divert safe and clean remnants, seconds, scraps, off-cuts, discards, misprints and overstock from the waste stream (aka the Great Material Continuum).
Take it or leave it places
Creative reuse entities are the spiritual siblings of deconstruction/salvage businesses and so-called “Take It or Leave It” initiatives. Some of these efforts in Washington include:
- Ballard ReUse
- Earthwise, Inc.
- Lopez Solid Waste Disposal District’s TIoLI
- Methow Recycles TIoLI
- Olympia Deconstruction Co.
- Resource Woodworks, Inc.
- The RE Store
- Re-Use Consulting
- RW Rhine, Inc.
- Second Use
Whether you’re looking for a shiny something for a special project, have an overabundance of awesome accessories, or are imagining something on a slightly larger scale, check out Washington’s many options for creative repurposing and start diverting everything from doodads to doors!
Kami Bruner, originally from Tennessee, is enjoying exploring our local zero waste options. For other zero waste efforts, check out Zero Waste Washington’s new list of zero waste and bulk stores around the state.
We are delighted to welcome Ashley Whitley as our new Outreach, Education and Policy Coordinator.
She already has a big portfolio of projects underway, including working to support the students of the Duwamish Valley Youth Corps in nurturing stewardship and leadership on waste prevention and plastic pollution education.
Building on her science background
Ashley is a Pacific Lutheran University graduate with a degree in geoscience and environmental studies. She was drawn to a career in environmental outreach and education because she is passionate about community and environmental science. In her previous position as an outreach educator at the Pacific Science Center, she traveled across Washington state and taught various science lessons through workshops, assemblies, and exhibits. She enjoys educating others about sustainability and aims to be as zero waste as possible, so she can positively impact the environment.
Recently, Ashley began a graduate program in environmental policy and planning. Through this program, she has learned that environmental policy and management are necessary for protecting the environment and achieving the goal of sustainable communities.
Comment from Ashley:
I grew up near the California Coast, and I would do yearly beach cleanups with my girl scout troop. I was always shocked by the amount of waste that was left on the beaches and saddened by the way it negatively affected the wildlife.
The ocean was my favorite place, and I didn’t want to see it being used as a dumping ground for old flip-flops and cigarette butts. I wanted to encourage others to care for our beaches as well, but I wasn’t sure how. I believe this is where my passion for environmental stewardship began.
During my undergraduate studies, I learned about the interconnectedness of major environmental issues. As I learned more about these complex issues (environmental racism, climate change, plastic pollution, access to clean water, wildlife conservation, etc.),
I could see the connections, and my passion for protecting the environment grew. In the past, I did not believe that one person could make a big difference. I now know that I can make a difference by educating and inspiring others to care for the environment.
Thank you Marisol!
Big thank you’s go to Marisol Diaz, our former Outreach and Policy Specialist, who moved on to a terrific job at EnviroIssues. Marisol built the program to support the Duwamish Valley Youth Corps cohorts and left behind a strong legacy of plastic pollution reduction.
Ashley can be reached at email@example.com
By Xenia Dolovova, Waste Reduction Program Manager
One of the best things you can do to reduce waste is to repair your items and extend their life. With the leaders and volunteers of so many wonderful tool libraries, repair events, and maker spaces, we have been helping nurture Washington’s repair economy. Now, we have started a project to also bring more attention to the business side by mapping all of the repair businesses across the state. We need your help. Please send us the names of your favorite repair shops, for everything ranging from clothing and shoes, jewelry, lamps, appliances, electronics, tools, computers, and more.
We want to repair things, not send them to the landfill
There is no better way than repairing, reusing, sharing. In the Washington State Department of Ecology’s 2015-16 Statewide Waste Characterization Study, consumer products (including electronics, textiles, and furniture) were found to make up 7.3% of the landfill load (est. 336,483 tons/year). Wow! To reduce this waste – both the disposal of the items as well as waste from the production of new replacement items – we need a return to our grandparents’ and great grandparents’ repair ethos.
Mapping the landscape of repair and telling the stories
For this project, we are working to map all repair businesses and efforts in Washington, so that people will have a one-stop site to look for local repair options, including businesses, non-profit repair events, and DIY tool libraries and maker spaces. We are also looking to create video and written stories about extraordinary individuals who have built repair businesses.
If you know a great repair shop that has a story to tell, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Zero Waste Washington is thrilled to support Seattle Good Business Network, and Seattle’s Office of Economic Development in their work to support circular businesses in Washington.
On June 23 (4 pm), join us for the LIVE Circular Innovation Challenge: a virtual pitch competition where FIVE finalists will pitch their best-manufactured product idea using ‘waste’ or recycled materials. The winner will receive a $10,000 cash prize, continued mentorship, access to investors, and more!
This live event includes a happy hour, live music, audience-favorite voting, circular business vignettes – and of course, pitches from our finalists and the announcement of our winner(s).
Register to attend the June 23, 4 pm event here: https://seattlegood.org/circular-innovation-challenge-register/
Join us for a virtual rally to kick-off Plastic-Free July to support the recently launched Reopen with Reuse campaign calling on our communities to recognize that reusable foodware is safe and to choose a reusable rather than disposable lifestyle.
As we are starting to see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel and communities and businesses move toward reopening, we are calling on our beloved restaurants to reopen with nontoxic reuse. As citizens and as consumers, we trust the data that shows reusable items are safe for use even during COVID, and we WANT to be served in reusables and NEED a systemic shift towards non-toxic reusables to achieve a sustainable future!
Date: July 1
Time: 4-5 pm
Rsvp to get the virtual link: https://ReuseRally.brownpapertickets.com
Register to attend the July 1, 4 pm event here: https://ReuseRally.brownpapertickets.com
Zero Waste Washington cannot do this work without you. Thank you for your generous support. Together we are driving policy changes for a healthy and zero-waste future in Washington.
And thank you for all that you do in your own lives and in the community to help create a zero waste world. Actions each of us takes every day help reduce the amount of waste going into the trash, which in turn moves us toward our vision of a just, equitable and sustainable future!
Send us your success stories! We’d love to hear them and maybe even include them in a future newsletter.
Zero Waste Washington
816 Second Avenue, Suite 200 * Seattle, WA * 98104