Washington state’s WRAP Act, which included major EPR for packaging and bottle bill provisions, won’t move forward this year after not being called up for a vote on the House floor before a key deadline.
The Washington Recycling And Packaging Act would have established an extended producer responsibility program for certain packaging and paper and would have created a container deposit system with a 10-cent deposit value. Other provisions included recycling and reuse targets, “truthful labeling” rules and minimum recycled content standards for items like plastic thermoform containers, food tubs and single-use cups. The state in 2021 passed a recycled content law for certain beverage containers, personal care products and trash bags.
Supporters said the bill would make recycling systems more efficient and help boost Washington’s recycling rates by holding producers more accountable to pay material management costs, building upon the trend of four other states that recently passed EPR for packaging laws. A new container deposit system would boost collection rates for high-value plastics while also creating jobs, they said.
“With producers covering the costs of recycling, many jurisdictions that have had to cut services in recent years will be able to reinstate those higher service levels,” wrote state Rep. Liz Berry, a main bill sponsor, in a letter to the Seattle Times.
Supporters also included Zero Waste Washington, a major backer of the bill, as well as Environment Washington, Washington Public Interest Research Group, the Washington Beer and Wine Distributors Association, the Association of Washington Cities, Seattle Public Utilities and several municipal governments.
Despite momentum from activists, objections from the waste industry ultimately won out, said Heather Trim, executive director of Zero Waste Washington.
Washington Refuse & Recycling Association, which represents major haulers in the state such as WM, Waste Connections and Republic Services, was among the groups that opposed the bill, saying it could cost residents more money and hurt the waste industry. “We already have convenient and affordable curbside recycling programs that collect our beverage containers,” the association tweeted this week. Representatives from those haulers also testified against versions of the bill during committee hearings.
Others in opposition included the American Chemistry Council and several material-specific organizations such as the American Forest & Paper Association. AF&PA held a press conference on Wednesday about how it thought WRAP Act’s EPR elements could disrupt paper recycling streams and divert funding away from paper recycling infrastructure investment. “EPR policies should be applied as a solution for hazardous or hard-to-handle materials with low recycling rates,” said Terry Webber, vice president of industry affairs, at the press conference.
Washington has mulled several EPR for packaging bills in recent years, most recently last year’s EPR and minimum recycled content bill called the RENEW Act, which also failed to pass out of committee.
Several other recycling and waste-related bills are still in the mix, including an EPR for batteries bill similar to one passed in California last year, as well as a right-to-repair bill for electronics. A plastics reduction bill phasing out miniature toiletries and promoting reusable water bottles is also still in play. The session ends April 23.
Correction: We have corrected this story to note that the bill passed multiple committees, but did not receive a vote on the House floor.