Speaking Up to Curb Plastic Pollution in Washington

Plastic pollution on a sandy beach.

Millions of tons of plastic enter the ocean every year, and plastic debris is now found everywhere from polar sea ice to the bottom of the deepest ocean trench. Whales, dolphins, seabirds, sea turtles and other animals die every year because they get tangled up in plastic or fill their stomachs with plastic they mistake for food.  

The Seattle Aquarium is also concerned about the ongoing rise in plastic production because plastics are made from fossil fuels. Plastic production is therefore a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, intensifying climate change and ocean acidification. By 2050, cumulative greenhouse gas emissions from the full life cycle of plastics could be equivalent to 615 coal-fired power plants, according to a study by the Center for International Environmental Law and other organizations.

To protect the health of our ocean and communities, we must reduce the production of single-use plastics and shift to reusable alternatives. There is strong public support for bills like this one. A new survey of bipartisan voters in Washington state, Colorado, Florida and Maine found that 76% want to see more legislation to reduce plastic pollution, and 79% support new laws to protect the ocean.

State Senator Mona Das is championing PSSB 5022 in the Washington state legislature right now to help address this crisis. Read on for details about the bill and how you can take action to make sure it passes. 

PSSB 5022 includes measures to:

  • Ban Styrofoam: The bill bans the use and sale of expanded polystyrene foam (Styrofoam) food service products, recreational coolers and packing peanuts in Washington state. Styrofoam breaks down in the marine environment into smaller pieces, degrading water quality and harming wildlife that often mistake pieces of polystyrene for food. The bill has exemptions for items like prepackaged food, raw meats and coolers used to transport temperature-sensitive medicines.
  • Build a market for recycled plastic: Manufacturers of plastic bottles for drinks like soda and water would be required to make those containers with postconsumer recycled content—an average of at least 25% postconsumer recycled content in 2026, increasing to at least 50% in 2031. Currently, only about 9% of plastic waste generated in the last several years has actually been recycled. This requirement will help increase the market value of recycled plastic and thus help ensure that more plastic is recycled.
  • Reduce single-use straws, utensils and more: Food businesses would only provide single-use utensils, lids for cold beverages, straws and condiment packets upon customer request or in self-service bins. This is an easy way to reduce unnecessary waste and save businesses money.

There’s no time to lose! Without immediate changes to the way we use plastics, the total amount of plastic waste generated is expected to double in the next five years. Much of that will end up in our ocean and waterways.

 

You can help!

Email your legislator or call the toll-free legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000 to leave a message for all three of your legislators at once. Ask them to support PSSB 5022 to reduce plastic pollution and improve the health of our ocean!

You can also join our email list to receive timely action alerts and breaking news.

Thank you to Washington state legislators fighting ocean plastic!

We thank Senator Das and Representative Berry for being the lead sponsors of this legislation to reduce plastic pollution, and also extend our gratitude to all the co-sponsors.

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