Washington State's Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law Rep. Sharlett Mena’s (D-Tacoma) House Bill 1085 on April 20. It reduces plastic pollution in three distinct ways, passed in the Senate with a strong bipartisan vote of 37-11.
The bill tackles the issue of excess plastic pollution by requiring that any new construction that requires a drinking fountain must also have a bottle filling station, eventually prohibiting lodging establishments from providing personal health or beauty products in plastic containers, and prohibiting the sale of expanded or extruded plastic foam overwater structures.
“Plastic pollution and microplastics are harming our environment, our marine wildlife, and bodies. Scientists are ringing the alarm bells. They are finding higher concentrations of plastics in fish and other marine animals. And this is a really big problem in Washington because we are a water state. We’re home, not only to the nation’s largest estuary, but thousands of rivers and streams,” Mena says. “We can do better. This bill helps us chip away at plastic pollution in three simple ways. It will help prevent those little microplastics from getting into the water, protecting our salmon, and our way of life in the Pacific Northwest.”
To achieve its goals, HB 1085 engages several different government agencies and councils. After deliberating with industry groups, the bill also allows for differing implementation timelines. The bill adds the requirement of a water bottle filling station to the State Building Code starting in 2026. Lodging establishments have until 2027, for establishments with 50 or more units, and 2028 for smaller establishments to transition away from providing soap, shampoo, or shower products in plastic containers smaller than 6 ounces, plastic wrappers, or other plastic packaging. The Department of Ecology will create a complaint-based enforcement system. Finally, beginning next year, overwater structures containing expanded or extruded plastic foam or foam blocks are prohibited unless the foam is fully enclosed in a sturdy shell. Fines of up to $10,000 may be appealed to the Pollution Control Hearing Board.
“I have engaged with so many youth advocates who are asking us to step up and do something, who are asking us to leave them a planet that is habitable and healthy,” said Mena, “This bill will help protect and preserve our marine ecosystems and reduce the massive amounts of plastic waste that our society creates. It is often said that kids are our future, but it is our responsibility to them to have a clean and prosperous future.”
HB 1085 passed the House unanimously on February 28th. It now heads to the Governor’s desk for his signature.