2021 plastics laws

We are implementing a new state law to reduce the use of single-use plastics and increase recycled content in bottles and trash bags. The law supports many of the recommendations in Washington’s plastics study and waste reduction and recycling goals.

Phasing in new state law requirements

The 2021 plastics law will reduce the use of some plastics and may drive the development of new markets for Washington’s recyclable plastic. It was signed by Gov. Jay Inslee on May 17 and will be phased in over several years.

There are two immediate provisions:

  • June 25, 2021: The state no longer requires plastic bottles or other rigid plastic containers to include the “chasing arrows” symbol around the plastic resin code. The symbol can still be used, but it is no longer required.
  • July - December 2021: A stakeholder committee worked to provide recycled content recommendations for plastic items not covered by the 2021 plastic law.
  • 2022: Restrict restaurants and food service businesses from automatically including single-use food serviceware. Customers may still receive these items after requesting them, confirming they want them, or selecting them from a self-service station. These include many plastic items, like utensils, straws, condiment packages, and cup lids for cold beverages, and some non-plastics, like compostable items.
  • 2023: Require minimum recycled content in several types of single-use plastics, starting with trash bags and beverage bottles. In 2025, a minimum amount of recycled content will be required in plastic bottles used for household cleaners and personal care products. These requirements will be extended to plastic milk bottles and small plastic wine bottles in 2028.
  • 2023 – 2024: Restrict the sale of specific types of expanded polystyrene (rigid foam) products, starting in 2023 with packing peanuts. The restrictions will apply to food service containers and recreational coolers beginning in 2024.

Other requirements of the 2021 plastics law:

  • 2024: State agencies may only buy plastic trash bags that meet the post-consumer recycled content requirements. 
  • 2028: Conduct a study of plastic resin market conditions, if funding is available.