Podcast | Solving the world’s plastics problem

Following the failure of the Washington Recycling and Packaging Act, experts and a key lawmaker discuss next steps.

Four people on stage

Journalist Benjamin Woodard interviews Rep. Liz Berry, Zero Waste Washington executive director Heather Trim and Nippon Foundation Ocean Nexus director Yoshitaka Ota during the session “Our Plastic Planet” at the Crosscut Ideas Festival on Saturday, May 6, 2023. (Amanda Snyder/Crosscut)

Plastic is everywhere. It’s in our refrigerators, in our oceans and even in our bloodstreams. And wherever there are plastics, there are questions over what to do with them. 

In Washington state, as in most other places, the answer has been to recycle them whenever possible. In 2011, Washingtonians recycled 56 percent of recyclable materials, but since then there’s been a decline. Now the state recycles about 49 percent.

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For this episode of the Crosscut Talks podcast, we listen in on a conversation from the Crosscut Ideas Festival about plastics and the challenges to recycling. Seattle Times environment and climate editor Ben Woodard leads the conversations with Washington state representative Liz Berry, Ocean Nexus Center director and anthropologist Dr. Yoshitaka Ota and Zero Waste Washington executive director Heather Trim.

The panel discusses why those numbers have dropped, as well as China’s role in recycling, the equity issues surrounding the practice and legislative efforts to hold producers of goods accountable by having them pay for recycling services.

This conversation was recorded May 6, 2023.

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