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.
Legislative session is in full swing – we are at the pivot point where bills get voted out of one house to go over to the other house. We need your help to get bills voted out of the Senate. This means your Senator needs to hear from you today! Senator Mona Das’ bill, SB5022, that will prevent plastic pollution and improve recycling is up for a Senate floor vote this week. Other zero waste bills are also still in the running.
SB5022 – Plastics and Recycling Bill
As you know, plastic pollution is increasing in our local waters and in the oceans. We can tackle this by reducing plastic we don’t need – like Styrofoam food containers – and by improving our recycling system.
Take Action with Us! Click here
This year, Zero Waste Washington and our partners in the Plastic Free Washington coalition are supporting Senator Mona Das and Representative Liz Berry to pass the Plastics and Recycling Bill, SB 5022.
- Bans expanded polystyrene (styrofoam) foodservice products, coolers and packing peanuts as of June 1, 2023.
- 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.
At this time, SB5022 has passed out of Committee and is ready for a floor vote before the Senate this week. This is the first major vote, and we need your help to make sure it passes.
Please take this online action to let your senator know that reducing plastic and improving recycling is a priority for you.
Now is a critical moment to help SB 5022 on its path to become law. Click here
If you have questions about the components of the bill, check out this Factsheet.
Other zero waste bills
We are happy to report that there are many zero waste bills that are also awaiting floor votes or have made it past this mid-point hurdle. More detail and the status of these bills and others can be tracked on our legislative page at: https://zerowastewashington.org/legislative-work/
Bills that are waiting for a floor vote
- Recycling wind turbine blades. First-term Senator Jeff Wilson, a Longview Port Commissioner, noticed all of the huge (268 feet long!) wind turbine blades coming in by sea. He introduced SB 5174 which would establish a producer responsibility program for recycling wind turbine blades. These blades last 1-20 years and since the first field went in in 2001, we are about to see a wave of replacement blades.
- Wheat straw for bags. Representative Skylar Rude from Southern Washington is leading HB1145 which would allow 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. 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, has strong backing and might make it to the finish line. Lead is not safe at any level and is especially problematic for children.
- Laptops for students. Representative Mia Gregerson cares deeply about equity and access. She led the Right to Repair bill this year (and although it did not make it out of its policy committee, it made a good showing). This laptop access bill (HB 1365) requires provision of learning devices for students and staff, including recycling and repair.
- 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. This year, his new bill (HB 1161) modifies the drug take-back law to allow for multiple product stewardship programs and strengthens physical location take-back requirements.
Bills that have passed out of their House of Origin
- 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. It is similar to last year’s bill, that was vetoed by the governor due to COVID-related state budget concerns.
- Fluorinated gases. Championed by Representative Joe Fitzgibbon this bill (HB 1050) establishes a maximum global warming potential threshold for hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used in stationary air conditioning, stationary refrigeration, and ice rinks. And requires Ecology to provide recommendations to the Legislature by December 1, 2021, regarding the design of a program to address the end-of-life management and disposal of refrigerants.
How to help
Our community and partners have an excellent track record of helping to get bills passed.
Here is how you can support these bills right now:
Call the Legislative Hotline (open M-F 8 am to 7 pm) at 1-800-562-6000.
They will ask your name and address and then will let you list several bill numbers.
State your support or opposition and add a brief comment:
“I urge your support/opposition on this bill because…”
Environmental Priorities Coalition
Zero Waste Washington is part of the Environmental Priorities Coalition. The Coalition is made up of 24 statewide organizations working to safeguard our environment and the health of our communities in the state legislature. For the 2021 legislative session, we have three priorities that are essential for healthy communities and a thriving environment:
- Clean Fuels Standard
- Clean and Just Transportation
- Conservation Works (strong budgets for environmental issues in the State operations and capital budgets)
Partnership Agenda. The coalition has also adopted a Partnership Agenda. This agenda supports work that is important for environmental progress being led by partners and include Voting Justice, Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) Act, Working Families Tax Credit, and Worker Protection bills.
Thank you all for your help in moving all of these important bills forward. If you have any questions, please contact Heather at email@example.com.
By Kami Bruner, Waste Reduction Project Coordinator
Here in Washington, we’re blessed with a cornucopia of businesses that are doing their part to help us all tread a little more gently on the planet. Though the pandemic has put a damper on some zero waste efforts, it’s also spurred a lot of creativity – especially in the grocery sector. Excitingly, a new zero waste store has just opened in Blaine, joining a growing network of options.
We recently interviewed Shawna and Seppi Morris about their new enterprise:
The New Kid on the Block
The Living Pantry Refillery grocery opened in September 2020 (that’s right, in the midst of COVID!) in Blaine. While the pandemic meant hasty adaptations to business as usual for many retailers, Living Pantry owners Shawna and Seppi Morris had the unique advantage of being able to plan for it months prior to opening. “We were forced to make decisions upfront, so we were able to build them into our model from the very beginning.”
Though they’d been told often enough “You’re crazy to open a bulk store during COVID!,” Shawna and Seppi wanted to show that it was possible and okay to aim for zero waste despite circumstances, integrating COVID-safe handling practices from the get-go. For their bulk goods, they explain, “We’re the only ones handling the bins and we serve everything ourselves so can take the necessary precautions.”
This hands-on approach brings the added advantage of developing deeper relationships with their customers and helps achieve one of the pillars of their vision for the store: building community.
Localizing and building community
Shawna and Seppie want The Living Pantry to be a place to connect and create community, not “just a place to shop.” Part of that community building is embodied by their product offerings. The majority of their products are local to Washington, many coming from within Whatcom County itself.
Local sourcing not only reduces the footprint of their goods, but simultaneously “boosts the folks making things in our community.” In some cases, this community reaches across the border to neighboring British Columbia. Seppi notes that, while geo-politically speaking, they’re “foreign goods,” geographically, goods coming from Vancouver and Surrey are way more local to Blaine than items coming from many places in Washington.
Setting up shop in Blaine
“We could have located in Bellingham, but Blaine is where we live and we felt that would betray our vision of serving our community.” It turns out that this was a good business decision. Blaine only has one other grocery store, so The Living Pantry has filled a need within the town.
That said, Shawna and Seppi have been astonished to see how many folks come from Bellingham and beyond because bulk sections have been curtailed and few places allow customers to bring their own containers. But as Seppi notes, “because we’re small, we can do it!”
Confusion is a common first reaction
Blaine is a small town, and its residents aren’t necessarily known for being the eco-trendsetter type. So, the reception to Shawna and Seppi’s pitch for a zero waste store has often been simply: confusion. While they’ve had plenty of “What is this?!,” they’ve seen an incredible transformation over the past six months.
Seppi muses that one of their greatest rewards is hearing visitors (who once came through the door with a big question mark on their face) now exclaim “This is so great! Why isn’t this happening everywhere?!”
Making it affordable
Some customers are initially hesitant because they assume it’s more expensive. Seppi acknowledges that certain items are indeed more costly because they’re hyper-locally hand-crafted. But when it comes to many things, especially their bulk goods, customers are frequently shocked to find out how little something costs.
“We’re offering fresh, high-quality products, from conscientious companies, many are co-ops, who aren’t spending lots of money on branding and packaging so there are often significant savings!” He also notes that it’s about education. Some products are more expensive because they’re more durable and last multiple times longer than their conventional counterparts. “We just try to be transparent with our customers about costs and why products are more expensive in some cases” (think reincorporating some of those price-reducing externalities that most big brands conveniently fail to mention, such as low labor costs, manufacturing impacts),
On “being zero waste” and imperfection
Oddly enough, the Morrises didn’t originally set out to create a zero waste store. “We were environmentally-minded and wanted to start some kind of business that built on those values. So, we developed our business plan and only then found out about the zero waste movement and were like,’yeah, that’s what we’re doing!’”
Even then, they were intimidated by the notion of “zero waste” because it seemed so impossible. But they came to understand it as a path rather than an absolute. “There is no perfect. You do one thing, get comfortable with it, then try something else. We always say we’re ‘approaching zero waste’ – of course you can always improve…. There’s no ‘you’re doing it wrong.’”
Looking ahead and bringing people along
What’s next for Shawna and Seppi? The Living Pantry online shop should be up and running soon and they’re considering a membership program. Beyond that, they have lots of ideas but are focusing on how they can help the wider community. The Morrises are thinking broadly. Not only are they connecting customers to each other and to the local producers, they’re connecting the businesses and the distributors to each other.
They’re also serving as educators and advocates. “We’re working with businesses in town like to-go restaurants and trying to be a resource for thinking about alternative models to take out containers to reduce waste.” They’re even helping the city organize a month-long event around zero plastic! Ambitious but staying centered.
Bravo to Shawna and Seppi Morris!
A quick shout-out to the growing number of bulk and zero waste stores
Did you know that there are over 75 stores all around Washington that have bulk options or are full-on zero waste stores? And that does not even include the big chain stores, like WinCo. The movement is growing!
Check out our new webpage with our Washington options: https://zerowastewashington.org/local-zero-waste-stores/
And a very special thanks to the incredible folks at Litterless and Emeraldology for their work which has contributed enormously to this list!
When it comes to living lighter, it’s not (just) what you buy but how you buy it
Still worried that shopping zero waste is too expensive, exclusive, or simply inaccessible? Remember, reducing waste in your life doesn’t mean you have to shop only at “zero waste” stores! You can make a big difference by shopping differently – like buying in bulk! While it’s true that some stores have scaled back on their bulk during the pandemic, many of our beloved grocers still offer a dizzying variety of goods in their bulk sections, and not just dedicated to food. From Fred Meyer to PCC, you can find staples as well as some surprises (lotion, epsom salts, pastas, dog treats, and plenty of human treats too!).
During the pandemic while we can’t bring our own containers yet, one work-around is to use the store’s own small paper bags – often provided in the produce section. When you’re done with the bag, it can serve other functions such as the liner for your kitchen compost container. Tip: Bring your own Sharpie and write the number on the bag before you fill to prevent punctures.
Kami Bruner, originally from Tennessee, is enjoying exploring our local zero waste options. Check out Zero Waste Washington’s new list of zero waste and bulk stores around the state.
You are invited to our annual Legislative Tea on Sunday, March 7, 3-4:30 pm. Come learn about the progress, the setbacks and the negotiations … for the zero waste bills that are making their way through the Washington State legislature. Bill topics address styrofoam and food serviceware, recycling, solar panel recycling, medicine return and more. Please register to receive the zoom link.
Sunday, March 7, 2021
Last minute decisions are OK.
By Xenia Dolovova, Waste Reduction Program Manager
We are increasingly aware of the growing plastics problem and the harm to marine wildlife, from the bottom to the top of the food chain. While we know a good deal about microplastics in our marine waters, we have large data gaps on the type and amount of litter coming from land. Zero Waste Washington and our partners aim to fill in this data gap. Have you participated in a litter cleanup? We need your help.
A growing pollution problem in the Salish Sea
An ecological treasure of global significance with thousands of animal species, many found nowhere else on Earth – the Salish Sea is one of the world’s largest, biologically rich inland seas. And, like marine waterbodies all over the world, the Salish Sea is polluted by micro- and macro-plastics that float in the water, accumulate in the bottom muds, and are sprinkled throughout the gravel and sand on its beaches.
An estimated 80% of the growing accumulation of marine debris is land-based, coming from urban and storm runoff, sewer overflows, beach visitors, inadequate waste disposal and management, industrial activities, construction and illegal dumping. Once the litter reaches marine waters, it is almost impossible to remove, and the plastic gradually breaks down into tiny bits which never completely decompose.
Litter assessments to quantify the problem
Zero Waste Washington has been working with the EPA and with partner organizations to develop a standardized litter assessment protocol. As an add-on to existing cleanup events, we are counting, weighing and photographing litter picked up at beaches, parks, along roads, and other public places. We train volunteers, provide needed supplies and equipment and help enter the data into a database.
Why? We are working collaboratively to build a credible database that demonstrates impairments to water quality. By doing assessments across the state, we can compare apples-to-apples data. For example, we can look at the question of how many cigarette butts are found per square foot in a specific beach area compared to a local park.
Gathering these data will help us create a regional report so that we can make the case that plastic litter should be considered a pollutant under the federal Clean Water Act. Making trash officially a pollutant will ultimately lead to required fixes.
Do you participate in litter cleanup events?
We are looking for volunteer groups to make this plan a reality. This summer, we can provide support, guidance, equipment and necessary training to help your team quantify litter using the new EPA protocol. It is easy! And only needs to be done once every few years (unless you want to do it more frequently).
The collected data and resultant messaging about site-specific litter can help promote local solutions to cut down on plastic pollution and reduce overall waste.
This is a multi-year effort, and we are beginning to make headway!
If you are part of a litter cleanup group or effort, email Xenia firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to work with you.
Great news! You will soon be able to easily recycle paint in Washington. The Washington paint stewardship program is expected to launch April 1, 2021, pending approval from the Washington State Department of Ecology. Through the new
PaintCare program, you will be able to take unwanted paint to drop-off sites throughout the state. These sites will be available to households, businesses, government agencies, and others with leftover paint in Washington.
The Paint Stewardship Law was an 8-year effort
Zero Waste Washington, together with our many partners, especially municipalities, worked for 8 years to promote an industry-supported bill that will now go into effect. Representative Strom Peterson championed the paint bill which passed in the last few days of the 2018 legislative session. This was the tenth state law enacted in the US and now, with New York joining, there will be 11 programs in place.
How it works
Once the program launches, participating PaintCare drop-off locations, such as paint and hardware stores and transfer stations, will accept the following:
- House paint and primers (latex for recycling … or oil-based for reuse or safe disposal as a hazardous material)
- Deck and concrete sealers
- Clear finishes (e.g., varnishes, shellac)
The paint products accepted must be in 5 gallon containers or less and in their original container with original manufacturer label and secure lid.
What happens to the paint?
Latex paint can easily be recycled into a suite of colors. GreenSheen, out of Colorado, has started operations in Kent, WA, and produces recycled latex paint that is sold at Habitat for Humanity and other stores for about half the price of new paint. Oil paint will be offered for reuse or will be disposed of as hazardous waste.
How the program is funded
Unlike other producer responsibility laws in Washington State though, such as e-waste and safe medicine return, the cost of the program will be directly passed along to consumers. Under this product stewardship law, a small fee will be added to each gallon of new paint sold at retail, appearing as a line item on receipts. This fee goes to the 3rd party nonprofit organization – PaintCare– associated with paint manufacturers. PaintCare will fund all costs including recycling and disposal as well as reimbursement of the WA State Department of Ecology’s expenses associated with oversight.
To find drop-off sites near you, after April 1, check out the PaintCare website: https://www.paintcare.org/paintcare-states/washington/#/new-program-in-2021
Innovation Waste Summit
Our annual waste summit was held on November 30, 2020. This year’s theme was innovation, highlighting cutting-edge entrepreneurs and researchers in the region. The event coincided with the finals of the first annual Pacific NW Hackathon.
Watch video presentations:
- Aimee Rudolph, Beta Hatch – how they farm insects to create high-value proteins, oils, and nutrients for agriculture
- Nicole Baker, Net Your Problem – recycling a major plastic pollutant of the ocean – fishing nets
- Russell Davis, Organix– using state-of-the-art vermiculture for dairy waste
- Karl Englund, WSU and Global Fiberglass Solutions – recycling windmill blades and other composites
- Chris Idso, WA State Department of Corrections – pioneered vessel composing at our state prisons and other innovations
- Manuel Montano, WWU – cutting edge assessment of plastic nanoparticles in the environment
- Mike Centers, Titus MRF Services – results of pilot testing for a secondary recycling facility in Portland, OR
- Corinne McCarthy, C+C – innovating new methods for looking at people’s behavior as they recycle or compost
Watch video presentations from six Hackathon Finalists here.
During the Final Round judging for the first Pacific NW Zero Waste Innovation Hackathon, the three main prize winners were selected for their treatments of the inaugural theme “Making Trash Obsolete”.
The Grand Prize was awarded to Wild Nest, a team from the University of Oregon who developed an innovative plan for addressing the stunning amount of lightly used furniture waste which is generated by the hospitality sector each year. Their plan for hotel furniture decommissioning, as-is sales, re-upholstery, and designer retail earned them the judges’ top nod.
The Second Place prize went to Moment Energy from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia for their idea to give new life to retired electric vehicle batteries by deploying them alongside renewable energy systems as a clean energy alternative to diesel generators.
Third Place went to Vancouver-based Beedie Luminaries from the University of British Columbia who aim to reduce food waste one item at a time through a suite of tactics leveraging clever advances in shelf-life placards, display and stocking tactics, and a new mobile-app-based “buy one, get one later” loyalty program.
First Zero Waste Hackathon drew 15 teams from Oregon to British Columbia. The hackathon delivered a 5-week training program for student teams with business ideas relating to zero waste. Fifteen teams participated from as far south as Eugene, OR, and north to British Columbia. The students competed for cash prizes up to $2,500 while receiving mentorship, coaching, and judging from over forty-five solid waste and business professionals from around the region.
Learn more about Hackahton: https://hackathon.zerowastewashington.org
Are you a zero waste expert? Or do you like doing research on new topics? Help us educate your fellow Washingtonians about interesting zero waste questions and solutions.
Consider joining our FAQs project. For our website, we have a team of volunteers who are developing answers to some of our followers’ most common zero waste questions. We want to be a resource for the community.
Image is Hotel Why? a new zero waste call-to-action hotel in Japan! Hotel Why opened on May 31, 2020 and was designed by architect Hiroshi Nakamura, who was also responsible for the town’s eco-friendly micro brewery five years ago. Hotel Why was designed in the shape of a question mark because its very mission is to help us question and think about our relationship with waste. Not only is the hotel committed to a zero waste circular economy but they also invite guests to participate in workshops and other learning experiences as a call-to-action. https://www.spoon-tamago.com/2020/06/03/zero-waste-hotel-why-kamikatsu/)
To be part of the FAQ effort, please email Kami at Kami@zerowastewashington.org
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
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