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.
We’re excited that on October 1, 2021, Washington’s single-use plastic bag ban will go into effect. Retailers will no longer hand out single-use, thin film plastic bags. Customers may bring their own reusable bags, or pay an 8 cent charge for paper bags or reusable thicker plastic bags.
The bag law – SB5323 – was passed in 2020
Washington was the 8th state to pass a bag lag. The bill was championed by Representative Strom Peterson (D-Edmonds) and Senator Mona Das (D-Kent) and passed with bipartisan support.
This law is among the strongest in the nation because it applies to all retail, incuding restaurants and because it incorporates a charge, which helps motivate people to bring their own bag.
The 8 cent pass-through charge is retained by the retailer to cover the cost of the bags and in 2026, the charge for paper bags will go up to 12 cent.
The law was originally slated to go into effect January 1, 2021. Due to COVID and paper bag supply issues, the governor delayed implementation. In July, he announced that it will go into effect on October 1, which is a date that syncs with the Department of Revenue’s quarterly tax reporting schedule. The 8 cent charge is taxable.
And an update from another new law: Opt-in for utensils, straws, cup lids and condiment packages goes into effect January 1, 2022
Senator Mona Das and Representative Liz Berry (D-Seattle) championed SB5022, which was signed by the governor on May 17, 2021. The first component of the law to go into effect is the requirement that food establishments must get customer affirmation before they provide single-use utensils, straws, cup lids and condiment packages. This includes restaurants, third party delivery services, school cafeterias, and more.
This law also includes a statewide ban on styrofoam products (kicks in starting in June 2023) and mandated recycled content in bottles, jugs and trash bags, phasing in through 2031.
Tee’ing up bills for the 2022 legislative session
Fall begins the sprint toward the Washington legislative session, which starts January 2022. Zero Waste Washington has been working with partners on policy development related to the following topics:
- Revamping our recycling system and reducing plastic pollution through a product stewardship approach
- Making it easier and cheaper to repair electronic items (i.e., items with a screen) through Right to Repair
- Addressing safety and ease of recycling for batteries through a a product stewardship approach
- Decreasing methane generation at our landfills and getting excess food to hungry people by reducing organic material sent to landfills. Zero Waste Washington’s recent report, Improving Organic Materials Management, covers many of these policies.
- As we get closer to session, we will start to update our legislative work webpage with more details.
Thank you all for your help in moving important zero waste bills forward. If you have any questions, please contact Heather at email@example.com.
Zero Waste Washington is thrilled to invite you to the inaugural The EV3NT Seattle, From Trash to Treasure, November 17-19. This fun and idea-inspiring hybrid in-person/virtual happening brings together individuals from all sectors to collaboratively tackle a problem. The theme this year is How do we ethically and economically innovate waste management in the Pacific Northwest?
This year’s EV3NT theme – waste!
Zero Waste Washington partners each fall with different organizations to host an annual waste summit. This year, we are excited to partner with The EV3NT with waste management as the focus theme.
Why was this theme selected? Many companies are being asked to remove the recycling symbol from their packaging, 6 times more plastic is being burned than recycled, and it’s often cheaper to buy virgin plastic and expensive to recycle plastic. The issue of waste management has caught the attention of the public and our businesses.
What is The EV3NT?
The EV3NT finds big problems that need to be solved and empowers local communities to find solutions. The EV3NT does this through hosting summits in each community. The EV3NT convenes local individuals with diverse backgrounds and skill sets.
At The EV3NT, individuals will sign up to join teams that will work together to tackle selected problems. Participants will be guided through the ideation process, communication workshops, and educational lessons focusing on the event theme before forming teams to collaboratively problem solve and prototype.
On the final day, teams will present their solutions and the EV3NT will work with participants on how to keep solutions moving forward.
The EV3NT is founded on three key principals:
- Agency: participants do something to help solve the problem.
- Equity: participants benefit from the solution.
- Community: participants focus on what can be done together
November 17 · Virtual: Keynotes and level-setting presentation, including problem overview. Then join teams with individuals coming from a wide range of backgrounds, expertise and knowledge.
November 18 · In-person & Virtual: Collaboration > Prototyping. Groups share ideas to determine the prototype your team will build. Work with experts to build and iterate prototypes (which can range from physical items to plans, networks, partnership or policies). Begin drafting a presentation of solution.
November 19 · In-person: Finish up any last details on your prototype. Present your prototype to a panel of tech, entrepreneur, environmental, and plastics specialists to receive feedback.
NEXT STEPS: Work with The EV3NT team to build an action plan for moving your solution forward.
Register for The EV3NT at https://www.theev3nt.com/. Questions? Contact Heather at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you tired of plastic pollution in our natural areas? We are partnering with organizations across the US to ask the Honorable Deb Haaland, US Secretary of the Interior, to ban the sale and distribution of single-use plastic in US National Parks. Click here to help send this message to Secretary Haaland.
Mt Rainier National Park DID have a ban on sale of single-use plastic water bottles…
One of the first actions by the Trump administration was to reverse the bans on single-use plastic water bottles that were in place in some of our national parks, including Mt . Rainier. It is time to reinstate that ban and to look at all single-use plastics in our national parks. These are our national treasures. We can’t trash them.
The plastic waste adds up
On average, the NPS manages nearly 70 million pounds of waste annually, equivalent to the weight of 155 Statues of Liberty. If you include waste managed by park concessionaires, that number more than doubles. Plastic waste—such as water bottles, plastic bags, and non- recyclable or compostable food packaging—is a significant source of landfilled waste from parks.
NPS staff and volunteers spend considerable time and expense cleaning up litter and hauling waste to landfills. In Yellowstone National Park, a 2013 review found that plastic water bottles represent 50% of the park’s solid waste load. A 2016 survey found that more than one-third of park visitors (35%) use disposable water bottles, yet nearly four out of five visitors (79%) would support removing single-use bottles in parks to help reduce waste.
The plastic problem can be tackled
The good news is that this is a problem we can easily fix by:
- Banning the sale of single-use plastic bottles and other items in our parks
- Installing sufficient water filling stations
- Educating people about the environmental, financial, and health benefits of ditching bottled water and the need to bring their own reusable bottles
Our goal is to deliver a large number of signatures to Secretary Haaland this fall.
By Elisabeth Archer, Waste Reduction Strategist
What do trays, metal utensils, and metal cows have in common? These are all sustainable solutions to the single-use, throwaway items that school cafeterias transitioned to in the last several decades. Zero Waste Washington is convening a workgroup to assist schools and school districts across Washington state return to reusable solutions in the lunchroom.
Many districts have already made partial or full transitions to reusables, for example Eastmont School District, in East Wenatchee, started ditching foam lunch trays in 2010 and Yakima schools ditched Styrofoam trays in 2015. These are critical first steps. School districts across the state from Coupeville to Vancouver to Yakima are taking a variety of significant steps.
It is time to reduce single-use food service ware in our schools
The use of single-use food serviceware has a significant impact on our health and the environment through the process of extraction, production, and transportation to manufacture the products that continues through the use, disposal, waste, and exposure to toxic chemicals (PFAS, BPA, phthalates, styrene, etc.) of the products.
Students, parents, teachers, administrators, county representatives are all part of this effort to return to healthier and more sustainable schools by bringing reusable foodware back to school cafeterias. This effort will also help to institutionalize recycling and meet waste reduction goals.
A national movement has blossomed
Many schools and districts in Washington and around the country are already moving in this direction. For a good case study, you can look at the Palo Alto Unified School District. They made the transition to reusables in 2019. With a student population of 12,000, they reduced their annual waste by 8,152 lbs. and had a payback period of 5 months after their initial investment in foodware and infrastructure. Their net savings after one year was $16,523. Here are case studies with more cost-saving details: https://www.rethinkdisposable.org/case-studies/palo-alto-unified-school-district
If you are interested in joining this new School Disposables Reduction Workgroup, please contact Elisabeth at email@example.com
By Kami Bruner, Waste Reduction Project Coordinator and zero waster, Sarah Wolfe
A little while back, Sarah Wolfe, a zero waste community member, challenged herself to a plastic-free week. It didn’t quite work out as she’d imagined. Her personal story speaks volumes about the waste struggles we all face!
Something of a minimalist, Sarah only tends to buy groceries so didn’t anticipate any major hurdles to stemming the tide of plastic coming into the house. She’d seen the stories of people who managed to limit a whole year’s worth of trash to a single mason jar. Surely she could do a single week. How hard could it possibly be?
Beginning her “challenge”
Sarah has always considered herself environmentally conscious: recycling religiously, backyard composting, and generally trying to reduce waste where she can. Following blogs and reading up on the zero waste movement inspired her to do more.
Sarah reports, “I’m an optimist by nature and I really thought I could do it. I’d carefully planned out all of my meals for the week, redrafting my meal plan a couple times after realizing that certain ingredients contained sneaky plastic packaging – like the small piece of perforated plastic on the lids of some condiments, and the unnecessary plastic window on every single box of pasta because apparently people don’t know what spaghetti looks like.”
Sarah was excited the inaugural morning of her challenge. “I thought that the week was going to be easy because I’d planned it so well.” She took out the trash and set the trash can outside the back door, to discourage herself from tossing something thoughtlessly. It seemed like an unnecessary precaution, feeling pretty certain she wouldn’t even generate anything “trash-worthy.”
It is really hard to avoid
The plastic immediately piled on. On that first day, an Amazon package arrived generating plastic upon plastic.
Later, when she decided to relax by putting together a puzzle, it turned out all the pieces were wrapped securely in a brand new plastic bag.
Furthermore, she found that her meal options were far more limited than she’d anticipated. In planning her zero waste meals, she’d naturally intended to avoid as many animal products as possible but was quickly confronted with the seeming impossibility of avoiding plastic with most vegetarian and vegan alternatives.
Unnecessary plastic packaging seemed to greet her at every turn. As such, she was left with whole foods and raw materials – great for health reasons but demanding time and creativity.
She began wondering if anything she did made a difference or mattered. Was it even worth it? “Eco-anxiety, it’s absolutely a real thing,” she muses.
The experience offered some valuable perspective. Sarah realized she was trying to be perfect in an imperfect system. Despite an individual’s best efforts, one person changing their personal habits can’t shift the tide of society’s dependence on plastic. But individuals and organizations can use their voices (and dollars) to pressure designers, producers, and retailers to rethink their plastic habits.
Will companies respond?
Sarah began emailing companies.
“I contacted several brand name pasta companies and asked them to remove the plastic window and perhaps replace it with an illustration.” As it so happens, Barilla already does this, but only in the U.K. Sarah asked them to expand this practice to the U.S. market.
Then there were the snacks. “I felt as though I had to give up all my favorite snacks just to avoid plastic.” So, Sarah emailed the companies that make her two favorite snacks and asked them to consider changing their packaging.
She heard back from Barilla. “It seemed like they’d actually read my message and given it some thought.” However, their response was that they had already implemented the windowless box in the U.K. but that “their U.S. customers seemed to want the plastic window.”
Sarah took them to task for shifting the burden back to consumers and urged them to take a more proactive approach. “People have a lot of brand loyalty. If a company is forthcoming about a change like this with their customers, it’s likely that people will still buy the product. They might even be more likely to buy it.” The follow-up response to her email was decidedly less personalized. “It seemed more like an auto-reply,” Sarah laughs.
A call to action
In the ensuing weeks, Sarah has shifted her thinking and approach. Instead of setting her sights on being perfectly “zero waste,” she’s aiming for “low-waste.” Accordingly, she’s scaled back her challenge, shifting from the original week-long version to simply striving for one plastic-free meal at a time. “If I falter, there’s always the next meal to try again…. baby steps,” Sarah chuckles.
While she’ll continue to be mindful in her daily choices, she knows she cannot hold herself solely responsible for societal change. And that very insight has enabled her to turn what she initially saw as a “failure” into a personal lesson and a call to action for others:
“Take a moment to email your favorite companies and ask them to make environmentally sustainable changes. Let’s put them on the spot and ask what they are going to do to keep our business because it shouldn’t be about us, the consumer, making all the sacrifices. It should be about the companies changing their business practices so that everyone wins.”
Sarah’s takeaways for eating plastic free
- Shop thoughtfully. Keep in mind that even though plastic bottles are recyclable they often have additional plastic either covering the lid or underneath the lid; and
- Visit your local farmers market. It’s a great way to avoid unnecessary packaging, including those pesky produce stickers. And don’t forget to take your own bags.
Sarah’s favorite plastic-free meal of the week: Canned black beans, boxed rice, and fajitas made with bell peppers, jalapeno, and onion from the farmers market.
Kami, originally from Tennessee, is enjoying exploring our local zero waste options. Sarah is a zero waster who encourages all of you to take personal action and to help hold companies responsible. For local zero waste efforts, check out Zero Waste Washington’s list of zero waste and bulk stores around the state.
By Xenia Dolovova, Waste Reduction Program Manager
Hands down, one of the best ways to save resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and be a zero waster is to hang on to your items, not toss them when they are broken or need a refresh. How to do this? – repair them! Reuse and Repair has been important initiative for Zero Waste Washington for many years. In June we were able to bump the effort up with the creation of a “Where to Fix It” interactive map.
Locate repair services near you
With special funding from WA’s Department of Commerce via the Washington State Microenterprise Association, we were able to create (in one month!) the backbone for a new interactive map with over 1000 repair shops across the state, create videos and stories about the owners of these small businesses, build a comprehensive platform for resource sharing, and more. This includes heartwarming and inspiring stories
about repair shop owners. For example: In Seattle, a shoemaker on Broadway; repairers of outdoor gear; a veteran-owned antique lighting shop in Port Townsend; a women-owned Tacoma-based auto repair shop; a father and son shop for engine repair; mobile tool sharpening station by One Sharp Guy, and a lot more.
You will find this new resource at www.repaireconomywa.org
Next steps are to bring on more categories and geographical coverage on the map. If you see a missing business, please let us know.
If you know a great repair shop that has a story to tell, email Xenia at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow our growing social media channels: https://www.instagram.com/repaireconomywa/ and https://www.facebook.com/repaireconomywa/
One of our many amazing partners, the Seattle Good Business Network, invites you to join the WA Circular Innovators Network – an online convening platform for innovators, entrepreneurs, and businesses with circular economy principles at the forefront of their work.
This platform will allow you to connect with peers, colleagues, and resources to support your goals and interests around waste prevention (e.g., zero waste, reuse, upcycling, repair, etc.), and provide you with access to opportunities, tools, and tactics such as circular product design, access to capital, and more.
This online communications platform is modeled after several successful, collaborative Seattle Good Business Network communities connecting over 1,000 businesses to each other to solve problems, share infrastructure, and to share business, workforce, and sustainability development resources and opportunities.
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