Policy Update

States Seek to Hold Producers Responsible for the Waste They Create and Revamp Their Recycling



NCEL Point of Contact


This year, bills to ban single-use plastic items like plastic bags, polystyrene containers, and straws are sweeping the nation. However, states like Washington and California are thinking outside of the ban, and have introduced legislation that tackles plastic pollution at its source.  

In January, Washington Senator Christine Rolfes introduced a comprehensive bill that would hold producers of plastic packaging responsible for the waste they create. By 2022, SB 5397 would prohibit producers of plastic packaging from selling or distributing plastic packaging unless the producer participates in finances a plastic packaging stewardship organization – an organization that operates producers’ plastic stewardship program.

SB 5397 establishes a robust list of requirements for producers. These include:

  • Working with stewardship organizations to create a plan to reduce their plastic pollution;
  • Assisting municipal waste clean-up, collection, and sorting.
  • Developing accessible, multilingual outreach & labeling initiatives to educate consumers;
  • Participating in recycled content trade credits (developed by stewardship organizations) to achieve recycling rate requirements.

Bills tackling plastic pollution at its source are expected to crop up in other states as well. Just last week, California introduced AB 1080, which would overhaul California’s plastic production and recycling by requiring that all single-use products be recyclable or compostable by 2030. To read about these and other recycling and waste management legislation, head to ncel.net/plastic-pollution.