2021 plastics laws

We are implementing a new state law aimed at reducing the use of single-use plastics and increasing 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

Signed by Gov. Jay Inslee on May 17, the 2021 plastics law (Senate Bill 5022) will be phased in over several years. It will help reduce the use of some plastics and could drive the development of new markets for Washington’s recyclable plastic.

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.
  • July - December 2021: A stakeholder committee will work to make recycled content recommendations for plastic items not covered by the 2021 plastic law.

In the near-term, our work focuses three major requirements of the law: 

  • 2022: Require restaurants and food service businesses to only give customers disposable serviceware upon request, including plastic utensils, straws, condiment packages, and cup lids for cold beverages.
  • 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 (e.g., Styrofoam™) 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.