Washington's Contamination Reduction and Outreach Plan - CROP

High levels of contamination in Washington's recycling stream are crippling the recycling system.

In 2019, the Washington Legislature directed us to develop a plan to reduce recycling contamination. We're collaborating with stakeholders to develop a statewide Contamination Reduction and Outreach Plan (CROP). The CROP will include strategies to increase efforts across the state to reduce recycling contamination.

Commingled recycling, the big bin where you place all your locally-accepted recyclables, has boosted participation in the recycling system.

But making the recycling system easier to use has also made it easier to misuse. Improperly recycling materials can ruin large amounts of other recyclables, causing them to be landfilled instead of becoming new products.

Contamination occurs when people try to recycle:

  • Non-recyclable materials

  • Recyclables not accepted by their recycling service

  • Food and liquid

Contamination leads to higher processing costs for recycling facilities and causes material to be landfilled that would normally be recycled. The higher the contamination level, the higher the chance that more material will be landfilled. Entire bales of recyclable materials are landfilled in the worst contamination cases. Recycling contamination can also pose hazards to sorting facility workers.

China and other major overseas recycling buyers have gone so far as to restrict recycling imports that are excessively contaminated. This is what sent recyclable materials markets into a tailspin and led to the current recycling crisis.

How you can help and stay informed

As we continue developing the draft CROP, lend your help by sharing your ideas.

Comment online with eComments to share your ideas to stop contaminating recycling in our state. To stay informed about CROP-related topics, sign up for our State Contamination Reduction and Outreach Plan email list.

Anticipated timeline

Draft Statewide CROP out for public comment Early July, 2020
Final Statewide CROP published by July 31, 2020
Deadline for local CROPs to be adopted by July 1, 2021

We expect to have a draft of the statewide CROP out for public comment in early July, 2020 and the final version of the plan published by July 31, 2020. We will then assist local jurisdictions to develop their local CROPs. Counties with more than 25,000 residents must include a CROP in their solid waste management plans by July 1, 2021.

Local jurisdictions may use Local Solid Waste and Financial Assistance or Waste Reduction and Recycling Education Grants to develop and implement their CROPs.