Did you know that Washington lacks an equitable recycling system? WA residents don’t necessarily have access to blue bins, and different municipalities recycle different materials. Worse, the ubiquitous “chasing arrows” symbol found on packaging products doesn’t accurately represent whether something is recyclable.
These are just a few of the reasons Puget Soundkeeper and our partners at Plastic Free Washington/Washington Sin Plastico support the Washington Recycling and Packaging (WRAP) Act. We know that Washington residents are ready for a reduction in packaging waste, a more efficient recycling system, lower costs, and, critically, producer responsibility for the lifecycle of packaging materials.
Producers are not incentivized to reduce packaging or make existing packaging out of easy-to-recycle or compostable materials. Currently, more than 50% of Washington’s consumer paper and packaging ends up in landfills and incinerators. This lost opportunity costs the state $104 million in wasted materials. Modernization of our recycling system leads to cleaner materials with a second life as new products.
The bottom line is that Washingtonians want to access recycling services so they can properly dispose of waste and packaging. But recycling rates have risen 30% in the past five years, putting recycling services out of reach for some municipalities. Meanwhile, excessive packaging piles up. Other states, like Maine, California, and Oregon, as well as Canada and much of the European Union, enacted similar programs. Recycling rates have skyrocketed as a result.
A Modern System
Producer responsibility requires brands and manufacturers to reduce unnecessary packaging and paper, fund statewide recycling services, and ensure that materials are actually recycled. The WRAP Act also features a deposit return system for beverage containers. Consumers lack choice when it comes to finding products in easy-to-recycle packaging. Producers, not consumers, should pay to properly dispose of those products.
This system has other benefits:
✓ Reduce emissions by increasing reuse and recycling rates
✓ Make it easy to recycle by increasing access, including at apartments and in rural areas
✓ Reduce confusion and contamination by developing a clear, statewide list of recyclables
✓ Save local governments and residents money by covering costs of recycling programs
✓ Support WA’s economy by building local supply chains and recycling businesses
✓ Create incentives for producers to reduce unnecessary packaging and use more recyclable materials