Comprehensive organic food management proposal offers retailers flexibility and uncertainty

Jan 11, 2024
Written by WR Communications


After a six-month intense Organic Food Management stakeholder process with oversight from Representative Beth Doglio, the workgroup spent the last two weeks reviewing a comprehensive proposal that mandates statewide composting and other mandates with gradual implementation dates. This lengthy proposal is a sequel to HB 1799, passed in 2023, and will be considered by the Legislature in the 2024 session.

WR appreciates the goal of reducing methane production through organic food management to combat climate change and the potential opportunities for retail grocers to build community partnerships. After two iterations of this proposal, WR is pleased with some of the bills provisions and is concerned about a few specific mandates.

  • A provision that allows Ecology to exempt “persons” that use alternative mechanisms to serve the same purpose from following local jurisdictions’ mandate. According to the EPA’s Food Waste Scale Report, anaerobic digestion is an ideal alternative to composting wasted food. This exemption option will allow some businesses or organizations to adopt innovative options not foreseeable within the scope of this proposal.

However, the overall scheme of the proposal continues to focus on compost buyback for farmers when alternative organic food management includes producing anaerobic digestion digestate. The inconsistency in allowing alternative mechanisms and the lack of flexibility in the farmers’ buyback program could create a market bottleneck for better methods.

  • To reduce compliance costs and confusion, the definition of producers under this proposal needs to be consistent with the current Washington Recycling and Packaging Act the Legislature is considering. The consistency is especially important due to the higher standard for “film tinting” of bags under RCW 70A.455.070 and a new requirement on “home compostable labeling” for food products.
  • Washington’s new food date labeling standardization will become effective on January 1, 2026. Since the federal government will likely adopt a similar standard, our state’s date labeling standard will sunset the federal government develop a substantially similar date labeling standard. WR spoke up strongly about this sunset provision to reduce consumer confusion.
  • Grant programs Ecology will operate are crucial to the feasibility of all the mandates required in this proposal, and the uncertainty of funding sources is concerning to both Ecology and small to medium-sized retail grocers who need support to meet various new requirements. For example, the new food labeling requirements for all food products, including those internationally sourced, could adversely impact ethnic grocers who import most of their products.

WR’s government affairs team will continue to work with Representative Beth Doglio, the prime sponsor of this proposal, to provide workable solutions to achieve methane reduction goals.


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