On March 25, 2022, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed into law HB 17991, a comprehensive organics management bill to reduce methane emissions by supporting programs to divert organic materials from landfills. The bill provides support for edible food capture, access to organics recycling, markets for compost and product labelling to reduce contamination of organics streams.

It is estimated that 25% of waste into Washington’s landfills is organic, consisting of food, yard waste, woody debris and animal waste.2 Organic waste, when landfilled, degrades releasing methane. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is 28 to 36 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.3 Diverting organics from landfills can have a significant impact on methane emissions.

Washington HB 1799 targets a 75% reduction in organic waste going into landfills by 2030 compared to 2015 and a 20% reduction in waste of edible food on the same matrix. To achieve these goals, the bill requires jurisdictions with more than 25,000 population to provide organics recycling services, businesses to divert organics and cities and counties to coordinate solid waste planning. The bill updates the Good Samaritan Act to make usable food donation easier and creates the Washington Center for Sustainable Food Management within the Department of Ecology.

The bill focuses not only on reduction of organic waste but supports end markets for compost. It provides for grants for a sustainable farms and fields program for use of compost in agriculture. Local governments must adopt a compost procurement ordinance by January 1, 2023, develop a plan for use of compost in city projects and provide citizen education on compost use. Acknowledging the need for increased composting capacity, the bill requires local jurisdictions to include consideration for siting organic materials management facilities in comprehensive land use planning.

Finally, the bill amends the Plastic Product Degradability Act that went into effect in 2020.4 That act prohibited product packaging from using terms such as “degradadable”, “oxo-degradable” and ”biodegradable”. It set specific standards for labelling of compostable products. HB 1799 furthers the efforts of that bill to address greenwashing and reduce contamination for composters.

The bill transfers enforcement authority from the Washington State Attorney General to the Department of Ecology (DOE). Cities and counties continue to have concurrent jurisdiction. DOE is authorized to make rules and must develop a forum for complaints to address violations of the law.

All products labelled “compostable” must meet applicable ASTM standards (D6400 or D6868) or be fiber-based substrate only. They must use a third-party certification logo (such as CMA) denoting the product meets those standards. They must be readily and easily identifiable as compostable upon quick inspection in both public sorting areas and in processing facilities. To this end, food service or film products (other than bags) must be at least partially colored green, beige or brown. The prior act merely encouraged color marking. Compostable film bags must be uniformly colored or tinted green, beige or brown and non-compostable film bags are prohibited from using those colors.

Section 807(2) allows compost facilities to request technical information from compostable product producers showing the parameters in which the product has been field tested and found to degrade. Disclosure of the information is “encouraged” rather than mandated. However, composters are free to prohibit any products that do not show this proof.

Washington State has taken a huge step forward to address methane emissions and climate change. The goals are ambitious and require cooperation and collaboration from all stakeholders to make the vision a reality. CMA is committed to supporting the goals of this legislation and working with the supply chain, municipalities, haulers and composters to address this important environmental effort.

If you have questions about this legislation or CMA’s role in supporting these changes, please contact CMA’s Compliance Director and legislative liaison, Janet Thoman at janet@composterapproved.com.

1 https://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2021-22/Pdf/Bills/House%20Passed%20Legislature/1799-S2.PL.pdf#page=1

2 Washington Department of Ecology, 2020-2021 Waste Characterization Study. https://ecology.wa.gov/Waste-Toxics/Reducing-recycling-waste/Waste-reduction-programs/Organic-materials. Accessed March 30, 2022.

3 US Environmental Protection Agency, Basic Facts About Landfill Gas. https://www.epa.gov/lmop/basic-information-about-landfill-gas. Accessed March 30, 2022.

4 RCW 70A.455. https://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=70A.455. Accessed March 30, 2022.