House passes Smith bill to improve stewardship of recyclables in Washington state

In a unanimous vote Monday, the state House approved a bill sponsored by Rep. Norma Smith aimed at improving stewardship of recyclable materials in Washington state.

House Bill 2914 would direct the Department of Ecology (ECY) to develop a public outreach strategy in an effort to improve recycling practices, reduce contamination rates, promote statewide best practices, and improve consumer education. The outreach strategy would be required to be ready for implementation by June 1, 2018.

Smith, R-Clinton says better consumer education is needed now more than ever following China’s recent crackdown on industrial and household waste imports. With China serving as the largest importer of Washington’s recyclables, she says the ramifications locally will be significant.

“For too long, we have simply relied on other countries to take care of our waste. In doing so, we’ve created more negative environmental consequences globally than most of us realize,” said Smith. “While we all want to be responsible consumers, the fact is a false narrative has been created when it comes to recycling. People naturally assume they’re helping the planet when they throw products in the blue bin in their garage. In many instances, however, that’s not the case. A lack of knowledge about what should be recycled and what should be put into the waste stream has led to widespread contamination of recyclable materials, which is one reason why China is cracking down on the waste it imports from Washington and the western United States. The good news is we now have an opportunity to hit the reset button, own our own consumption, and be locally and globally responsible stewards.”

In addition to requiring the ECY to develop a public outreach strategy, House Bill 2914 would require the Department of Commerce to conduct an economic analysis looking at 1) existing types of recycling business practices, 2) opportunities and barriers to recycling more materials and expanding recycling businesses, and 3) the effects of both regional and global recycling market changes. The analysis would be due in July 2019.

“I am hopeful this economic analysis will inform us as to how we can ensure economic interests are harmoniously aligned with environmental interests when it comes to recycling,” said Smith. “I strongly believe we should be encouraging and incentivizing businesses that rely on recyclables to manufacture products from them and reuse them in more effective ways.”

House Bill 2914 now moves to the Senate for further consideration.


Washington State House Republican Communications