We promote producer responsibility to address difficult to handle wastes. We seek improvements in existing programs for electronic waste, mercury light bulbs, paint, photovoltaic modules (i.e., solar panels), and tires, and new programs for products such as packaging, carpets, batteries, sharps, mattresses and more. Producer responsibility is an approach in which manufacturers are responsible for the products they make from cradle-to-cradle, including providing for and paying for appropriate recycling or disposal. In other words, at end of use, you take it back. This also encourages manufactures to design in materials recovery and recycling.
Zero Waste Washington focuses on seven priority program areas
Promoting Producer Responsibility
Reducing Plastics Pollution
We work to reduce plastics pollution in our waterways and compost, including microplastics. We help assess litter across the state and we seek passage of reusable bag and other single-use plastic items laws at the local and state level. Recent successes, with our partners, are statewide bans of thin, carryout plastic bags and Styrofoam food serviceware. We advocate for reduction or redesign of other plastics, including microfibers (fleece), which create microplastics in our waterways. We also seek reductions of contamination of compost such as fruit/veggie stickers, plastic-lined coffee cups and plastic tea bags. We prioritize a move to the use of reusable and refillable items.
Encouraging Reuse, Repair and Sharing
We’re facilitating a culture of reuse, repair, repurpose and sharing at the community level through projects such as the Repair Economy WA. We seek to reduce consumerism by promoting sharing libraries (such as tool libraries), Fix-It Fairs and programs to reuse materials.
Removing Toxic Chemicals
We work to get toxic chemicals out of our products, especially those that cause contamination at end of use. While we seek to promote a circular economy in which products can be re-circulated into useful items again and again, toxic chemicals must be off-ramped for the sake of human and environmental health. We want producers to use the fewest and least toxic chemicals in products (e.g., antibiotics in soaps, heavy metals in electronics; toxic plasticizers (phthalates) in a multitude of products). Examples include Teflon chemicals — per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) — in food serviceware which contaminates compost and flame retardants in millions of sofas which will now require careful disposal.
We promote the redesign of products, especially packaging, as a significant waste prevention measure. Mixed packaging (plastics and papers bonded together) cannot be recycled and excess packaging generates nuisance waste. Products designed with a cradle-to-cradle or circular economy approach conserves resources. Innovative use of bio-materials reduces toxicity and allows for cleaner composting.
Driving the Market and Reducing Contamination
We work to help drive the market for recyclable and compostable feedstocks and approaches that will reduce contamination in the recycling and composting streams. Major new facilities, such as a regional plastics recovery facility (PRF) and secondary materials recovery facilities (MRFs), are needed to clean up our recycling streams so that the outputs will be more marketable. Current curbside and facility practices create “dirty” streams. We need to ensure quality recycling and composting processes and that products are actually recycled.
We promote innovation, especially for difficult items where policy or new techniques are needed. Examples include items that make up significant volumes in the landfill such as diapers, kitty litter, pet waste, and “flexible” packaging.