Extended Producer Responsibility for Washington

How producer responsibility for paper and packaging can help reduce plastic and improve recycling outcomes

Pam Clough | Used by permission
Plastic waste was prevalent at the Cedar Hills Landfill in Washington.
The Plastic Free Washington Coalition

Worldwide, we produce almost 400 million tons of plastic waste
annually—and nearly half of all plastic produced is intended to be used just once and thrown away. Washingtonians experience this problem first-hand with plastic and other materials littering our neighborhoods, shorelines, and parks, filling landfills to capacity, and harming wildlife. And it doesn’t stop with plastics, we are inundated with excess packaging, especially single-use items.

Washington’s recycling systems have not been able to keep up with the influx of plastic and paper packaging flooding into our homes and environment.

  • In Washington, more than 50% of all consumer packaging and paper products are landfilled or incinerated, wasting an estimated $104 million in valuable materials.
  • Only 17% of plastic packaging waste is actually recycled.
  • Some Washingtonians’ recycling service bills have increased more than 30% over the past seven years.
  • Recycling access varies across the state and many Washington residents must pay extra for recycling services. Residents in 11 counties have no access to curbside recycling services at all.
Staff | Public Domain
Many U.S. states are adopting or considering producer responsibility programs for packaging. States in green have adopted extended producer responsiblity programs, and states in yellow have proposed programs.

Companies have been complying with producer responsibility programs for decades in other countries around the globe- like Canada, countries in the European Union, and others- with great results. In the last two years, California, Colorado, Maine, and Oregon have passed producer responsibility programs for packaging and paper and more states are considering putting their own programs in place.

Establishing a producer-funded recycling program for packaging will:

  • Incentivize producers to use reusable, recyclable, or compostable packaging.
  • Provide universal recycling services for Washingtonians: All residents who currently have curbside garbage pickup will receive curbside recycling service.
  • Reduce pollution causing climate change: Higher use of recycled content in packaging materials means fewer emissions and less energy use compared to producing virgin paper, plastic, metal, and glass packaging.
  • Reduce confusion and contamination by developing a clear common list of what can be recycled statewide and ensuring that product labels reflect actual recyclability in WA.
  • Reduce packaging and increase reuse. Targets will be developed for increased recycling rates as well as reuse and refill.
  • Support Washington’s economy by building local supply chains and recycling businesses and creating new, green jobs.

Join our efforts to establish producer responsiblity for recyclables in Washington.

Are you a student who wants to reduce plastic and act on climate?
Are you a local elected official in support of producer responsibility?

Sign onto our local elected official sign-on letter here.

Want to learn more about the benefits for local governments? Check out this factsheet. 

Interested in volunteering?

Join our grassroots team here, and sign our petition below!


Pam Clough

Advocate, Environment Washington

As an advocate with Environment Washington, Pam develops and runs campaigns to protect Washington's air, water, and special places. She has worked on issues ranging from clean energy climate solutions, preventing plastic pollution, defending clean water, and protecting our special natural spaces. Pam lives in Steilacoom, Washington, where she enjoys kayaking on the Puget Sound, gardening and hiking in the surrounding mountains.

The Plastic Free Washington Coalition

The Plastic Free WA/WA Sin Plástico coalition is lead by Zero Waste Washington, Environment Washington, the Seattle Aquarium, Puget Soundkeeper, Surfrider Foundation, the Latino Community Fund, and Oceana, and includes a diverse team of volunteer advocates, environmental non-profits, and community organizations spread across the state of Washington.

Our mision is to eliminate unneccessary plastic waste in Washington state, and we have a strong track record of advancing waste reduction solutions in Washington state.

Find Out More
staff | TPIN

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