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Food Waste Reduction and Sustainable Recycling: New Legislation

Food Waste Reduction and Sustainable Recycling: New Legislation

This post will discuss two recent bills related to food waste reduction and encouraging a sustainable recycling industry in Washington State. Both have an impact on local governments’ solid waste planning efforts.

Addressing Food Waste: E2SHB 1114

The facts surrounding food waste are astounding:

  • In Washington, roughly 17% of what we send to the landfill is food waste. About half of that is edible food.
  • In the United States, about 25% of the food that’s ready for consumption is wasted each year, making up 22% of the total material sent to the landfill (more than any other material).
  • Worldwide, the United Nations food and agriculture organization has estimated that if one quarter of the food wasted globally could be saved, an additional 878 million hungry people could be fed.
  • If “food waste” were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.

Recognizing these facts, the legislature passed E2SHB 1114 this past session, which establishes a goal for the state to reduce, by 50%, the amount of wasted food generated annually by 2030, relative to 2015 levels. This would match the EPA goal established by the Obama administration in September 2015.

E2SHB 1114 directs the Department of Ecology (Ecology), in consultation with the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health, to adopt a wasted food reduction and food waste diversion plan by October 1, 2020. The plan will then be used as a guiding document for both public and private efforts to reduce and divert food waste throughout the state. The legislation also expands the programs to be funded from the Waste Reduction, Recycling, and Litter Control Account (i.e., litter tax), established under existing RCW 70.93.180, to include wasted food reduction and food waste diversion programs.

How does this impact local governments?

Local governments will have the opportunity to incorporate recommendations from the food waste reduction plan into their Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plans (SWMPs) adopted pursuant to RCW 70.95.080. In its plan Ecology must include suggested best practices for local governments to incorporate into their SWMPs, as well as recommendations for a regulatory environment that “optimizes activities and processes to rescue safe, nutritious, edible food.”

The legislation also authorizes money to fund local government programs related to wasted food reduction and food waste diversion, again, by expanding the activities that the money from the Waste Reduction, Recycling, and Litter Control Account may be used for. Twenty percent of the funds from this account are allocated to local government programs.

Resources relating to food waste reduction

Sustainable Recycling Act of 2019: ESSHB 1543

Last year, MRSC published a blog post about the recycling crisis resulting from the major reduction in markets for recycled goods due to China’s changed policy known as “National Sword.” To briefly summarize, China has stopped accepting many of the post-consumer recycled products from the United States — and what it will accept must be much less contaminated than the bulk recyclables that it had formerly imported. This has disrupted local governments’ recycling efforts — making recycling much more expensive, as well as bringing to the forefront issues associated with contaminated recyclables.

As the legislature stated in its findings within ESSHB 1543:

Waste import restrictions worldwide are having huge implications for state and local recycling programs and operations in Washington state, requiring immediate action by the legislature.

To address and mitigate these impacts, the bill creates the Recycling Development Center within Ecology that will “research, incentivize, and develop new markets and expand existing markets for recycled commodities and recycling facilities.” The legislation directs this new Center to engage in several activities to promote new regional market opportunities for recyclables. The Center will be guided by an advisory board with public and private-sector members, including one member representing cities and two members, appointed by the Washington Association of County Solid Waste Managers, who will represent counties on both the east and west sides of the state.

In addition to creating the Recycling Development Center, this bill addresses the issue of contaminated recyclables — a problem especially prevalent in single-bin recycling programs where recyclables are commingled.

How does this impact local governments?

In counties with a population of over 25,000, updates to the local SWMPs (developed under RCW 70.95.080) must now include a Contamination Reduction and Outreach Plan that addresses reducing contamination during the recycling process. This plan must be incorporated into the SWMPs by July 1, 2021. The counties may adopt their own plan addressing the elements required by statute or they may use a statewide plan that the Department of Ecology must prepare by July 1, 2020. 

Among other things, a local plan must identify key contaminants affecting the system, as well as actions the jurisdiction could take to reduce contaminants. Ecology is directed to provide technical assistance in developing these plans, and local jurisdictions may apply for financial aid to help defray the costs of both the development and implementation of the plan.

As with the food waste reduction legislation, the sustainable recycling law expands the programs that may be funded by the Waste Reduction, Recycling, and Litter Control Account to include development and implementation of contamination reduction and outreach plans included in local government SWMPs.

News and resources related to sustainable recycling

Department of Ecology

MRSCSolid Waste Collection, Recycling, and Disposal,

WasteDiveWashington State recycling market incubator bill signed into law

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

Photo of Jill Dvorkin

About Jill Dvorkin

Jill joined MRSC as a legal consultant in June 2016 after working for nine years as a civil deputy prosecuting attorney for Skagit County. At Skagit County, Jill advised the planning department on a wide variety of issues including permit processing and appeals, Growth Management Act (GMA) compliance, code enforcement, SEPA, legislative process, and public records. Jill was born and raised in Fargo, ND, then moved to Bellingham to attend college and experience a new part of the country (and mountains!). She earned a B.A. in Environmental Policy and Planning from Western Washington University and graduated with a J.D. from the University of Washington School of Law in 2003.