Recycled content minimums
Washington's plastics law requires producers of many everyday products sold in plastic packaging to include a minimum amount of recycled plastic in their packaging. Producers must also register with us by April 1 of each year and pay annual fees.
Each year, producers must report on minimum post-consumer recycled content (PCRC) requirements from the previous year. The minimum requirements began for beverage and trash bag producers in 2023. Household cleaning and personal care products will start in 2025, and dairy milk and wine sold in small 187 ml bottles will begin in 2029.
Minimum recycled content phases
Each product category is phased in with increasing PCRC requirements over the next fifteen years. By 2036, all packaging for covered product categories must include at least 50 percent post-consumer recycled content, except for trash bags, which only contain 20 percent after 2027.
Plastic beverage containers
Beverage containers start at 15 percent in 2023 – move to 25 percent in 2026, and up to 50 percent in 2031.
Plastic dairy milk containers
Plastic dairy milk containers start at 15 percent in 2028, 25 percent in 2031, and 50 percent in 2036.
Plastic wine containers (187 milliliters)
Plastic wine containers (187 milliliters) start at 15 percent in 2028, 25 percent in 2031, and 50 percent in 2036.
Plastic trash bags
Plastic trash bags start at 10 percent in 2023 – move to 15 percent in 2025 and 20 percent in 2027.
Plastic household cleaning & personal care products
Household cleaning and personal care products start at 15 percent in 2025 – move to 25 percent in 2028 and 50 percent in 2031.
Minimum content requirements drive demand for recyclable materials
For an efficient recycling system, buyers for recycled materials are essential. Minimum content requirements for recycled materials can create demand and support end markets. Both mechanical and chemical recycling methods are acceptable, but bio-resin is not a substitute for recycled content and does not count towards minimum requirements.
Reporting recycled content starts in 2024
Beginning April 1, 2024, beverage and trash bag producers must submit a report along with their annual registration. The report must include the percentage of PCRC and virgin plastic resin type contained in all products sold or distributed in Washington.
Other covered products will be required to meet PCRC minimums at later dates.
Requesting exclusions for federally regulated products
With the exception of dietary supplements and FDA-regulated drugs, there are no exclusions for using recycled content in federally regulated products. However, certain federal packaging regulations may render the inclusion of recycled content infeasible. Producers who believe that a federal regulation prohibits the use of post-consumer recycled content (PCRC) in their product packaging can submit a request for exclusion by September 1 of the year before they wish the exclusion to apply.
If we grant a request for exclusion, it will apply to packaging produced the following year and for data reported the year after.
Apply for temporary exclusion
Apply for temporary exclusion within the Waste Reduction Portal via SecureAccess Washington.
Content minimum adjustment petition
Beginning in 2024, we may annually assess whether to adjust the minimum post-consumer recycled content percentage required for a type of container, product, or category of covered products for the following year.
Producers should submit requests to adjust PCRC minimum requirements for the following year at the time of their registration. If necessary, producers can request these adjustments until December 31, but we will have less time to decide. The sooner a producer can submit a request, the better.
Requests must provide enough information for us to justify an adjustment, and propose plans for overcoming the factors preventing the producer from meeting the requirements. This could include supporting documents and data and a detailed explanation of barriers, such as:
- Changes in market conditions, including supply and demand for PCRC, collection rates, and bale availability both domestically and globally.
- The availability of recycled plastic.
- The capacity of recycling or processing infrastructure.
- The technical feasibility of achieving the minimum PCRC requirements.
- Product safety concerns.