Spring Quarterly Enewsletter – May edition

“Bring your own container” rules moving forward

By Elisabeth Archer, Waste Reduction Strategist

Important changes allowing people to “bring your own container” as part of the state’s Food Safety Rules have been under consideration for the past year. The State Board of Health had originally been scheduled to vote on the new rules in March. That vote has been delayed till summer, but the Board held a briefing on April 8, 2020, via zoom and we are glad that the process is still moving forward. “Refilling Reusable Containers” (WAC 246-215-03348), also referred as “bring your own container,” draft language was part of the presentation.

Zero Waste Washington proposed language to the State Food Safety Advisory Committee and the Department of Health (DOH) staff last spring. And DOH staff included the “bring your own container” provisions in the draft sent out for informal public comment in June.

Thanks to the many of you who sent in comments, DOH staff updated the language of the proposed rule incorporating our suggestions for even stronger language. For example, the new draft now allows people to bring their own containers for all bulk foods, such as granola and grains.

If adopted by the Board, retailers will have the option to allow people to bring their own containers. Retail stores will need to create a written plan detailing how they will ensure no cross-contamination. This means using gravity-feed type dispensers and other means to make sure that no germs are transferred from your containers to the food bins at the store.

Many stores have temporarily removed salad bars and bulk sections during the COVID-19 crisis. We expect that these features will be restored after the crisis is over, but with new protections such as plexiglass shields and use of gloves and new equipment. We are hearing that the crisis is reinforcing people’s sense of the need for care for the environment and thus the movement to reduce plastic and excess packaging will rebound stronger than ever.

Next steps

The next step in the process will be a formal public hearing of the draft language, currently scheduled for August 2020. There will be a written public comment period prior to the hearing.

Due to COVID-19, the timing is still in flux. We will let you know when there are confirmed dates for public comments and the public hearing for the food code revisions.

The anticipated effective date of the revised WAC 246-214 is the end of 2020. However, the Restaurant Association has asked that any food rule implementation be pushed out to the summer of 2021 to give food establishments time to recover from the business interruptions of COVID-19.

For more info about the rules

For more info about the Washington State Board of Health (SBOH) meetings, agendas, and materials: https://sboh.wa.gov/Meetings/MeetingInformation and https://www.doh.wa.gov/AboutUs/PublicHealthSystem/WashingtonStateBoardofHealth

For more info about the code and revision process: https://www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/Food/FoodWorkerandIndustry/FoodSafetyRules/FoodCodeRuleRevision

Thank you all for your help in moving this issue forward. If you have any questions, please contact Elisabeth at elisabeth@zerowastewashington.org


GiveBIG for zero waste

COVID-19 has changed our world, but it hasn’t changed Zero Waste Washington’s commitment to tackle the tough waste, recycling, plastics, and consumption issues here in Washington, together with all of our members and partners.

GiveBIG has joined with #GivingTuesdayNow for the region’s largest 48 hour online giving event to celebrate community and our collective generosity. Donate now and double your impact. Donations to Zero Waste Washington are being matched dollar for dollar up to our $7,500 goal thanks to a gift from a generous donor.

Zero Waste Washington’s work to drive policy to protect the health of our planet and all of its communities is more important than ever, and we ask that you show your support by scheduling a donation now! You can now schedule your GiveBIG gift ahead of time by linking here

Thank you so much for your GiveBIG gift for Zero Waste Washington and other nonprofits working to help the earth and all of humanity.


Bartering makes a comeback

By Kami Bruner, Waste Reduction Project Coordinator

Photos: PIP Magazine

There has been an incredible outpouring of generosity and community spirit during this uniquely challenging time. And while the sharing economy became a thing with Airbnb and Uber, a much more fundamental concept of sharing goes way back in history… systems that didn’t involve cash and venture capitalism.

These forms of community exchange are resurging lately. You sew a mask for a friend, they give you some homemade granola in return.

We’re in this together and together we have a wealth of skills and resources!

From flats of free flowers on the sidewalk to mask-making brigades, eggs traded for toilet paper, and small repairs in exchange for sweets, people are in a sharing mood.



Bob Bruner, handyman extraordinaire…just as likely to be paid in food as funds.

As the lone dentist in a rural farming town, my grandfather regularly accepted chickens and other farm goods in exchange for providing dental care. Later, my own dad did plumbing and electrical work in trade for everything from automotive repair to fried rice.

In addition to neighborly exchanges, there are now formal online bartering systems. One, BizX, based in Bellevue, has seen a big increase in usage since the virus crisis began.

And from the sound of things, the extra time spent at home has sparked quite a few new gardening and other home goods projects. With any luck, we’ll be rolling in a collective bounty of fresh produce and flowers in the coming months! Then comes the possibility of many delicious dried, canned, fermented, or otherwise preserved goods for enjoying throughout the seasons – all of which make perfect barter goods.


Not quite so historic as bartering, the exchanges made possible through models like TimeBanking have roots dating back to the 19th century. These networks have spread around the world, providing individuals and communities ways to exchange goods and services multilaterally sans currency.

TimeBankers receive time credit whenever they offer their skills or resources in service to someone in the network. These credits can then be used toward other goods and services provided by fellow TimeBankers. For example, I have a tree loaded with apples and nowhere to put them, you pay me 2 time credits and harvest what you like. I use one of those time credits to have another TimeBanker help me with a quick light switch installation.

It’s no mystery that we all have needs, but more challenging for some is recognizing their assets – sometimes we all just need a little nudge to identify them! Grocery runs, Zoom-based Qigong sessions, fruit-tree harvesting, bicycle deliveries for those in quarantine, fresh-baked bread, computer programming lessons, free plants and seeds, coffee roasting tips, disaster prep guidance and “go-kit” creation, public speaking and storytelling coaching, childcare, watercolor lessons, a truck and help with hauling, photography lessons, and the incredibly timely “learn how to use Zoom” – these are just some of the offers floated by TimeBank members in recent postings.

Some of the main platforms include TimeBanksUSA, hOurWorld, and TimeRepublik. In Washington, there are timebanks in West Seattle, Belltown (Seattle), Kirkland, and Spokane.

West Seattle TimeBank. Photo: West Seattle Blog


Learning from and teaching others in your own community through a skillshare is fun. One of the most local robust examples is Sustainable NE Seattle’s fantastic annual Hands On Fair, a free day-long event devoted to teaching others how to do all kinds of neat stuff! From raising bees to basic wiring, participants gain immediately applicable skills in a friendly, supportive environment, for free! Though historically these have been in-person events, we may see a transition to a web format. Even now, some of our neighborhood fixer groups are contemplating video-based consultations and guided repair in lieu of their typical live gatherings!

Buy Nothing Groups, FreeCycle

In addition to Craigslist and Nextdoor, there are online free exchange platforms. Having gotten their start on Bainbridge in 2013, Buy Nothing Groups now abound around the globe. Find your closest group here. Similarly, FreeCycle enables people to pass along items they don’t need and maybe pick up some new treasures… all within their own communities!

Tool and Seed Libraries, Fix-It Fairs, and Right to Repair

As many of you know, Washington has some of the oldest and most robust tool and seed libraries in the country and recently Fix-It and repair events are gaining momentum. There are at least 14 tool libraries in Washington. While these are mostly shut down during the COVID-19 crisis, we anticipate that the thrifty and repair it yourself urge will continue to grow even as social distancing restrictions are lifted.

Furthermore, internationally and here in the US, the right to repair movement is gaining more and more momentum. Zero Waste Washington and partners worked on the right to repair bills at our state legislature the past three sessions. SB 5799 had an amazing hearing (link to hearing), in January. The time may be finally here for success in 2021!

So, in these tough times, let’s help each other thrive. As American mythologist, writer and lecturer Joseph Campbell said, “Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.” By sharing our time, talents, and resources with our communities, we can move toward more genuinely interdependent, resilient communities.

If you are part of other efforts or have heard of nice examples of bartering and sharing, please reach out to Kami at Kami@zerowastewashington.org. We would love to highlight model examples on our Facebook and in future newsletters.


Now is the time to Ditch the Diapers

By Elisabeth Archer, Waste Reduction Strategist

Did you know that for each six months earlier that a baby is potty-trained a family saves around $500 and eliminates 335 gallons of trash?

This is a big deal. Over 8,000 tons of diaper waste goes to the landfill each year from Seattle alone. What a perfect “pottytunity” to reduce waste. A new Ditch the Diaper Initiative started by two moms in Seattle is making a difference.

In 2019, Carrie Pollak of Diaper Stork and Julia Sandler of Re-Think Green blog, teamed up to launch the Ditch the Diapers Zero Waste Initiative. They have successfully helped families speed up the potty training process.

Their project, funded by a grant from Seattle Public Utilities, is working to help address the environmental and financial cost of potty training happening later and later in the US.

Internationally, babies are often potty trained earlier than here

Parents in over 75 countries use a method called “elimination communication” to train their babies to use the toilet by around the age of one, according to the website WebMD.

The age and techniques of toilet training vary by culture, income, education, and rural/urban living. While in the US, potty training begins somewhere between 18 months and three years, many countries start when a baby is a few weeks old, once the parents notice the cues that the baby has to pee or poop. Whistling or hissing sounds are made while the baby pees in Vietnam, India and the Digo community in Kenya. In parts of China split-crotch pants or a diaper-free method is used.

Americans drifted to later potty-training ages

Americans used to believe a one-year-old should be out of diapers. That gradually shifted to two-year-olds starting in the 1960’s when Pampers hired pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton to promote the idea of waiting for readiness signs prior to initiating potty training. Today most children are not expected to be out of diapers until around the age of three.

Reducing the age of diapering adds up to big environmental savings, especially when you factor in the environmental impacts from manufacturing, transporting, and disposing of diapers.

The initiative aims to reduce the age of potty training by 6 months

Photos: Courtesy of Ditch the Diapers

“We want to spread awareness that the way we are diapering kids in our culture is not normal or natural,” says Sandler. “What we do these days is diaper train our kids absolutely consistently for two years or longer, hampering their natural development in this area, and then expect them to decide to change.”

The Ditch the Diapers Zero Waste Initiative aims to lower the average age of potty training by six months by educating and supporting parents through the potty-training process.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, Ditch the Diapers had held free classes on toddler potty training and elimination communication for infants in four neighborhoods around Seattle.

Now the introductory classes have moved online, and the project is using daily Zoom meetings to support its first cohort of parents who are potty training little ones during the Stay Home, Stay Healthy period.

For more information about the Ditch the Diaper Initiative, please contact Carrie Pollak at 206.928.6982 https://www.diaperstork.com/ditchthediapers_a/298.htm


Youth hands-on project continues via zoom, amazingly.

By Marisol Diaz, Outreach and Policy Specialist

In early March, Zero Waste Washington was working in partnership with the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition supporting a cohort of Duwamish Valley Youth learning about plastic pollution.

This was very much a hands-on project. The project ground to a sudden halt when social distancing started up.

We thought that the project would resume only after the virus restrictions were lifted.

But after consideration and some serious rethinking of the project, the youth are now on Zoom learning video-making techniques and creating cool educational videos to educate the public about the plastic pollution problem.

Video Chatting…

Conducting a program with over 25 youth and 5 staff members requires a lot of coordination! Now, adding video instruction and creation on top of that could really complicate the overall quality of the program. Luckily, we have great partners, such as Latinos Northwest Communications, and dedicated youth who have made the transition to online relatively easy.

By switching over to digital classroom sessions, challenges in capturing and securing youth’s attention arose. Conducting various methods of engagement helped keep the youth’s focus. We moved from a 2.5-hour non-stop session to an on-and-off session (i.e., specific times to be present on zoom and specific times to turn it off and do an activity on your own). This method proved to increase the youth’s focus and engagement.

Everyone’s patience was needed as we had to troubleshoot through technical difficulties. Staff gradually became experts in zoom. For example, creating breakout sessions (virtual rooms) is necessary for this project. The youth are creating different videos and thus require separate spaces. However, it can be tricky when not everyone was in the correct breakout session due to user error.

“Before” photo: hands-on teaching

“After” photo: Zoom teaching


Here are some comments from the youth on how they’ve adapted to virtual sessions.

“It was a weird adaption because I’m used to being around a bunch of people and working in groups in the cohort but with the zoom calls, I’m just looking at everyone, it was weird at first but I got used to zoom and the camera.”

“ It’s been very good to be able to continue the development of our community through this project. It’s important that we didn’t stop. It has been a little harder to keep people accountable but otherwise I feel like we made a pretty good transition.”

“I like the cohort being done over zoom because we are in our homes and we could do our work and come back to the call.”

“I would say it’s harder to do it online but we’re all adapting to it and sometimes it’s hard to hear what they’re saying or sometimes my internet is unstable.”

In a few weeks, the youth will finish their videos. They will be available for viewing later this spring and we will include a link in our next newsletter.

A big thank you to the King County Waterworks grant program for supporting this work. If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact Marisol at marisol@zerowastewashington.org


Medicine take-back kicking in for whole state later this year

By Xenia Dolovova, Waste Reduction Project Manager

An exciting moment is coming into effect in late 2020 if the schedule holds! Zero Waste Washington and hundreds of partners worked for 12 long years for a statewide safe medicine return program, which passed the legislature under leadership of Representative Strom Peterson in 2018.

Residents across Washington will be able to take leftover medicine to pharmacies, hospitals, and sheriff’s offices, to be safely disposed… paid for by the pharmaceutical companies.

Right now, there are seven county product stewardship programs in effect where residents can take unused or unwanted medicines for drop off in secure take-back boxes: Clallam, King, Kitsap, Pierce, Skagit, Snohomish, and Whatcom. These programs will ultimately be folded into the statewide program. To find out locations for take-back in these counties, click here. https://med-project.org/locations/

Features of the statewide program

As a part of the new statewide program, manufacturers will pay for the takeback of unwanted drugs, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs, brand name and generic drugs, drugs for veterinary use for household pets, and drugs in medical devices and combination products. The program will not include vitamins, minerals, supplements, herbal or homeopathic remedies, exposed needles, or sharps.

The program is required to provide a minimum of one collection site per population center (i.e., a city or town and the unincorporated area within a ten-mile radius from the center of the city or town), plus one additional site for every 50,000 residents.

On islands and in areas outside of population centers, the program will provide a collection site at every potential authorized collector that is qualified, willing, and regularly open to the public, such as local drugstores, medical centers, and sheriff’s offices. Also, the program must establish mail-back distribution locations or hold periodic collection events to supplement service to any area of the state that is underserved by collection sites.

What’s next

Zero Waste Washington and the broad coalition of agencies and organizations supported the county ordinances and the statewide bill because of concerns about the opioid epidemic, suicide prevention, children’s poisonings, and drugs getting into fish and other wildlife in our rivers, lakes and marine waters.

California and New York subsequently passed similar laws. Other states are now considering passing similar legislation.

We are so proud that Washington was the first state to pass this comprehensive producer responsibility law (HB1047), once again helping lead the nation.

In the 2020, legislative session, we partnered with a broad coalition of agencies and organizations to develop policy language for a producer responsibility bill for medical sharps (syringes, needles, etc.) based on the medicine return bill. Representative Peterson again championed this new bill. The bill had a strong hearing in the health committee and we will work hard for future passage.

For FAQ about the new statewide medicine return program: https://www.doh.wa.gov/ForPublicHealthandHealthcareProviders/HealthcareProfessionsandFacilities/SafeMedicationReturnProgram/FrequentlyAskedQuestions/Public

Please contact Xenia at xenia@zerowastewashington.org with questions or suggestions about drug return, sharps return, and similar issues.


Your support is welcome!

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!

Send us your success stories! We’d love to hear them and maybe even include them in a future newsletter.

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