Monday, April 29, 2019

Sustainable Recycling Act of 2019 marks next chapter in Washington’s recycling story

New measure will foster innovation, help residents recycle right 

Gov. Jay Inslee signed the Sustainable Recycling Act into law on Monday, April 29.
If you’ve never had a argument with a close friend or relative about what is or isn’t recyclable, consider yourself lucky. For many Washington residents, it is the natural turn of conversation following a holiday meal or casual get together.

Washington residents love to recycle. A bi-partisan measure signed today by Gov. Jay Inslee aims to end the “friendly” family disagreements and help local solid waste managers clear up customer confusion about what is and isn’t recyclable. House Bill 1543 received its primary support from two first-year legislators in both the House and Senate: Rep. Jared Mead (44th) and Sen. Mona Das (47th).

The Sustainable Recycling Act of 2019 creates a Recycling Development Center to conduct research that will help develop and expand markets for recycled commodities so Washington residents can be responsible for the material they generate. It goes into effect July 1, 2019.

“The new law will help Washington maintain its leadership in recycling and help us develop a system that is sustainable into the future,” said Laurie Davies, Manager of Ecology’s Solid Waste Management Program. “The first step is cleaning up the contamination that is keeping some of our material from entering recycling markets.”

For years, China was the main destination for the world’s recyclables, but those recyclables were heavily contaminated and created vast amounts of waste. China’s government cracked down on the problem through a restrictive initiative known as “Blue Sky 2018”, which had worldwide repercussions. The effects are felt especially hard in Washington because more than 60 percent of our recyclable material was shipped to China.

The Sustainable Recycling Act is Washington’s response to the most significant issue facing solid waste management – the recycling crisis – and requires Ecology to develop and implement a statewide Contamination Reduction and Outreach Plan to clean up our recyclable material. With financial assistance, it also requires local planning jurisdictions to either create and implement individual plans for their communities, or use the statewide plan developed by Ecology.

The Recycling Development Center will facilitate research and development, marketing, and policy analysis to develop markets and processing infrastructure for recyclables. A collaboration of public and private stakeholders, including the departments of Ecology and Commerce, the Center’s initial services will be directed to businesses that transform or remanufacture waste materials into new products.

According to Davies, several Washington paper mills have already expressed interest in receiving the mixed waste paper that China no longer accepts.

“The conversations we are having with stakeholders gives me a lot of confidence that the passage of this law was right for this moment and provides needed flexibility for the challenges to come,” said Davies. “In Washington, the future of recycling looks bright.”

An advisory board will provide guidance for the Recycling Development Center’s work plan and will evaluate and make recommendations on state policies affecting markets for recycled materials. The center is expected to be operational on Jan. 1, 2020.

Learn more about Ecology's legislative priorities.

- Dave Bennett, communications, 360-407-6149

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