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Washington State News

Washington’s ‘ReWRAP Act’ Promises to Boost Recycling, Create Over 1,600 Jobs

SEATTLE – Packaging isn’t the same as it used to be, according to King County’s Adrian Tan. Transfer centers like the Factoria Recycling & Transfer Station in Bellevue used to process a lot more boxes and cans, and a lot less plastic. Nowadays, everything you buy is shrouded in plastic. Washington needs a new way to deal with it all.

“About 70% of the stuff dumped here is sent to landfills – but it shouldn’t be. Most of could have been avoided, donated, or collected,” said Tan during a visit to the station by Gov. Jay Inslee. “There’s a lot of stuff going to landfills that shouldn’t go there.”

2017 Ecology study found that Washingtonians generated 410,300 tons of plastic packaging waste: the equivalent of roughly 112 pounds per person per year. Instead of being recycled, nearly all of it ends up being landfilled or worse. State Department of Ecology crews collected more than 5.4 million pounds of litter statewide in 2022. That litter breaks down and tiny microplastic particles go on to contaminate local beaches and waterways, threatening marine life.

Rep. Liz Berry is helping lead on legislation this session that would bring Washington’s recycling system into the 21st century. The “ReWRAP Act” would expand curbside recycling services to as many as 1.3 million Washingtonians currently without. It would motivate extended producer responsibility, forming a coalition of private-sector packagers and manufacturers to modernize practices and material choices to improve recovery rates. In total, the bill would boost the state’s recycling rate from 40% to at least 60%.

“This bill will allow for 542,000 additional households in Washington to receive curbside recycling collection. Serving these additional households will require more drivers, creating additional jobs for drivers to transport materials,” testified Matthew Hepner, executive director of the Certified Electricians of Washington. “Overall, this bill is estimated to create 650 additional direct jobs and 1,000 indirect induced jobs.”

Improving recycling rates and manufacturing practices would slow down buildup at landfills, which are ‘explosive’ sources of methane emissions. It would reduce litter and environmental contamination. It would make Washington state a healthier and cleaner state.

“I don’t want to live in a world where there are islands of garbage in the ocean, plastic littering streets and green spaces and our campus, or microplastics in our bloodstreams,” wrote University of Washington student Kaleigh McGarry in a letter in favor of the act to the editor of her campus paper.