Beginning Jan. 1, 2024, Washington waters will harbor less pollution from the plastic foam used to support floating docks and walkways. New requirements mean that the expanded polystyrene used to float most overwater structures must be fully encased in concrete, aluminum, steel, or plastic to prevent it from breaking up and dispersing when the material becomes waterlogged or damaged.
Dock owners are not required to immediately replace non-compliant, exposed foam floats but will need to upgrade when the time comes to replace or repair those existing structures. The new law reinforces standard practices in the dock-building industry as well as existing regulations administered by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Small floating buoys are exempt from this law, but foam-free alternatives are encouraged for recreational crabbing and fishing.
“Boaters, anglers and others who enjoy Washington’s waters see first-hand the mess created when exposed white foam breaks down into tiny beads, polluting shorelines and endangering aquatic animals,” said Solid Waste Management Program Manager Peter Lyon. “This new requirement formalizes a modern practice of reputable dock builders who use fully encased foam.”
New requirements begin with education
The new requirement is part of the 2023 plastics pollution reduction law, which also established restrictions on single-use toiletries in lodging establishments and set requirements that called for new building construction to include water bottle filling stations.
Fines of up to $10,000 per violation can be imposed, however Ecology’s initial focus will be on educating partners, dock builders and the public. Violations may be reported online.