The California Assembly and Senate recently introduced a pair of identical bills, SB 54 (Senator Ben Allen – D), and AB 1080 (Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez – D), which would impose the most far-reaching and significant regulation of consumer products and packaging ever in California. The bills, which were most recently amended on May 7, 2019, would require the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) and the Ocean Protection Council (OPC) to adopt regulations on or before January 1, 2023 to achieve, by 2030, a 75% reduction of the waste generated from single-use packaging and products offered for sale or sold in California through source reduction, recycling, and composting.

The implementing regulations will mandate that:

  1. single-use products and packaging are source reduced to reusable packaging and products “to the greatest extent feasible,”
  2. all single-use products and packaging are recyclable or compostable by 2030, and
  3. manufacturers and retailers of single-use plastic products and packaging reduce waste of those items by 75% by 2030 through combined source reduction and recycling.

To achieve the third requirement, CalRecycle would require manufacturers and retailers to source reduce single-use plastic products and packaging to the “maximum extent feasible” and, as of 2030, would require single-use plastic products and packaging to have a demonstrated recycling rate of at least 75% averaged over three years. Taking a step-wise approach, the bills would require a manufacturer of single-use plastic products and packaging to demonstrate a recycling rate of not less than 20% on and after January 1, 2022, and not less than 40% on and after January 1, 2026, as a condition of sale, and would authorize CalRecycle to impose a higher recycling rate as a condition of sale.

These bills bring into focus the state’s far-reaching consumer product recycling goals: former Governor Jerry Brown set a goal of 75% recycling of solid waste by 2020, directing CalRecycle to take a statewide approach to decrease California’s reliance on landfills. According to an August 2017 CalRecycle report, total recycling rates in California fell to 44% in 2016, which is the lowest rate since the 75% statewide goal was established in 2011.

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