2021 plastics laws

We are implementing laws to reduce the use of single-use plastics. These laws will also increase recycled content in bottles and trash bags. They support many of our waste reduction and recycling goals and the recommendations in Washington’s plastics study.

Phasing in new state law requirements

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

There are two immediate provisions:

  •  June 25, 2021: The “chasing arrows” symbol around the plastic resin code is no longer required to be on plastic bottles or other rigid plastic containers. The symbol can still be used, but it's not required.

  • July – December 2021: We contracted a study with a professional third party to provide recycled-content recommendations for plastic items not covered by the 2021 plastic law.

  • 2021 — Washington's Plastic Bag Ban reduces plastic pollution by prohibiting single-use plastic carryout bags. Stores may provide reusable bags for a charge.
  • 2022 — Washington’s single-use serviceware law restricts restaurants and food service businesses from automatically providing single-use food serviceware with customer orders. Single use serviceware items may still be provided to customers who request them or select them from a self-service station provided by the food service business. The food serviceware covered in this law includes many plastic items, like utensils, straws, condiment packages, and cup lids for cold beverages. This may also include some non-plastics, like compostable items.
  • 2023 — Washington’s post-consumer recycled content law sets minimum recycled content requirements in the plastic packaging for certain types of products. These requirements begin for plastic trash bags and beverage containers in 2023. Producers of these products must annually register, report, and pay fees. We are conducting rulemaking to further clarify the law.
  • 2023 – 2024 — Washington’s expanded polystyrene law prohibits the sale of specific types of expanded polystyrene products, starting in 2023 with packing peanuts. The restrictions will apply to food service containers and recreational coolers beginning in 2024.
  • 2025 —: Washington’s minimum recycled content requirements take effect for plastic bottles used for household cleaners and personal-care products. We are conducting rulemaking to further clarify the law.
  • 2028 — Washington’s minimum recycled content requirements take effect for plastic milk bottles, and small plastic wine bottles. We are conducting rulemaking to further clarify the law.

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.