OLYMPIA – Today Gov. Jay Inslee signed SB 5022 into law at the Seattle Aquarium, one of only a few bills being signed at in-person events this year. Sponsored by Sen. Mona Das (D-Kent), it is the first law in the nation to ban expanded polystyrene food ware, recreational coolers and packing peanuts. It will also require increased recycled content in plastic beverage containers, trash bags and bottles for household products and require that utensils, straws, cup lids and condiments only be provided to customers on request.
SB 5022 is a leading-edge policy in a series of actions that the Washington state Legislature has taken to move toward climate change and pollution mitigation. The legislation builds on a bill Das championed in 2020 that banned thin plastic carry-out bags and required that thicker plastic bags consist of 40% post-consumer recycled content.
“The Washington Legislature has taken groundbreaking steps in recent years to address the problem of plastic, and continuing that progress is vital to the health of our communities and our planet,” said Das. “I am so proud that we’ve passed yet another tool to move us toward a cleaner, greener Washington – and I have been honored to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate, industry leaders, advocates, and community members to get this done.”
Addressing plastic and, especially, expanded polystyrene is popular with the public. A recent Public Policy Polling survey of bipartisan participants in Colorado, Florida, Maine and Washington state found that upwards of 76% would like to see more legislation to reduce plastic and water pollution. A majority (57%) of people surveyed say they support a statewide ban on foam takeout containers. Awareness and concern about the 33 billion pounds of plastic waste that enters the earth’s oceans each year are growing.
“Washington has been a national leader on addressing recycling and plastic pollution,” said Representative Liz Berry (D-Seattle), the sponsor of the House companion bill to SB 5022. “I hear from my constituents, and even my 5-year-old son – who told me that garbage is the biggest threat to our oceans – that we must take urgent action.”
SB 5022 will require beverage manufacturers to meet progressively greater levels of post-consumer recycled content in their plastic containers, which will help drive the market for recycled plastic resin and earned the support of major beverage companies impacted by the policy. The bill also makes Washington the first state to require minimum recycled content for plastic bottles used for household cleaning and personal care products.
“This carefully crafted legislation positions Washington as a national leader in breaking our radical, systemic addiction to single-use plastics,” said Sen. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle), another vocal advocate for climate solutions. “I deeply appreciate Sen. Das’ indefatigable efforts with environmental leaders and industry to find a path forward that encourages manufacturers to responsibly embrace greener, more sustainable consumer products.”
In regard to expanded polystyrene, the sale or distribution of packing peanuts will be prohibited beginning June 2023. Most portable coolers, food service ware and containers will be prohibited beginning June 2024. This expanded polystyrene prohibition is very similar to SB 6213, legislation sponsored by Das that passed the Senate in 2020. The bill will also require that food service businesses provide plastic utensils, straws, condiment packaging and cup lids only upon request, beginning in 2022, with some exceptions made for hot beverage lids, drive-throughs and delivery services. This makes Washington the first state to require comprehensive opt-in for plastic utensils, straws, cup lids and condiments.
“We must continue to hold manufacturers responsible for the plastic pollution crisis, and this bill represents another key step in the Legislature’s work to address this threat to public health and our environment,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island), who has been a champion for much of the environmental protection legislation that paved the way for SB 5022.
“Requiring plastic products to include recycled content will help create markets for our plastic recyclables,” said Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-West Seattle), one of the House’s champions for bills that build a greener economy and protect the planet. “This virtuous cycle will conserve energy and natural resources. This bill is a major step towards reducing the unnecessary plastic waste that clogs our recycling and waste streams.”
During the signing of SB 5022, part of a suite of environmental policy bills signed today, Inslee said, “Today is a historic day in the state of Washington. Thanks to the work and dedication of so many, Washington will not only be the most beautiful state, the most innovative state. Now, Washington will also have the best climate policies in the United States.”
“I was proud to introduce this bill to tackle the plastics crisis,” Das said. “At this point – in 2021, in a state that has consistently been at the cutting edge of new technology and sustainable development – we should not be manufacturing material that isn’t recyclable, reusable or compostable.”