A recent report highlights Washington's efforts to combat litter by implementing legislation such as bans on single-use plastic bags and automatic provision of food serviceware, with beverage containers identified as a significant source of litter.

Waste360 Staff, Staff

October 11, 2023

2 Min Read
Washington State Examines Legislative Measures to Curb Litter, Single-Use Plastics
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Washington's efforts to combat litter and reduce the environmental impact of single-use items have shown promising results, according to a recent report released by state authorities.

Based on a 2022 study, the report highlights the effects of various legislative measures aimed at curbing litter accumulation and promoting responsible consumption.

In recent years, Washington has implemented a series of laws to tackle litter and single-use plastics. These measures include a ban on single-use plastic carryout bags in 2021, a requirement to charge a fee for large paper carryout bags, and a ban on automatically providing single-use food serviceware without customer request in 2022. Moreover, the state has plans to introduce future bans on expanded polystyrene (EPS) products, including packing peanuts in 2023 and coolers and food service products in 2024.

The study estimates the annual accumulation levels of several banned single-use items, revealing that single-use plastic carryout bags accumulate at 127,279 pounds, plastic food serviceware at 38,412 pounds, and EPS food service products at 11,053 pounds each year.

A takeaway from the report is that beverage containers, including glass, metal, plastic, and paper cartons, constitute a major source of litter in Washington. These items contribute to 13% percent of the total accumulated litter, equivalent to 5.1 million pounds annually, with off-ramps witnessing an alarming seven-fold increase in accumulation rates since 2004.

The report suggests implementing a container deposit return law, commonly known as a "bottle bill." This law would encourage people to save and recycle beverage containers by providing a financial incentive. The report cites a national study that found states with such laws have 50 percent fewer littered beverage containers and 30 percent less litter overall. There is strong support for these laws, with 75 percent of respondents favoring container deposit return policies.

The state has also introduced a container deposit return system, but legislation has yet to pass. However, there are ongoing efforts to revise and reintroduce such a bill in the upcoming legislative session.

Washington's WRAP Act failed to move through state legislature in early 2023. It focused on extended producer responsibility for packaging and included a bottle bill provision.

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