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.

The statewide CROP will be completed by July 1, 2020. Then we will partner with local jurisdictions to develop their local CROPs or tailor the statewide CROP to their jurisdiction. Local jurisdictions larger than 25,000 residents must include a CROP in their solid waste management plan 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.

You can help

We are developing the draft CROP now, and need your help. Please use eComments to share your ideas on these topics:

  • What do you like and dislike about recycling and solid waste management services?
  • How do you think solid waste, including recycling, should be handled in Washington?
  • Where do you want to see new information: TV commercials, social media, websites, radio commercials, posters, community events?
  • What other comments do you have about recycling and solid waste management?

Anticipated timeline

Meet with stakeholders to discuss key concepts for the statewide CROP. Nov. - Dec. 2019
Meet with local governments in each region. Feb. 2020
Host workshops to present the formal draft.
Provide a public comment period.
April 2020
Release final statewide CROP. June 2020
Partner with local governments to develop their own CROP or tailor the statewide CROP to their jurisdiction. July 2020 - July 2021
Local governments with populations greater than 25,000 must have a CROP element in their solid waste management plan. July 1, 2021