California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a legislative package of Circular Economy bills into law on October 5 that “improve transparency, restore consumer confidence in the recycling system, and move the state away from disposable plastics,” notes Nick Lapis, Director of Advocacy for Californians Against Waste. “With these new laws, California will require companies to be honest about their products so that consumers know what they’re purchasing. It shouldn’t be a difficult concept: if it says ‘recyclable,’ that means we should be able to put it in the recycling bin; if it says ‘compostable,’ we should be able to put it in the composting bin; if it’s going to be exported to a country where its fate is unknown, we shouldn’t count it as ‘recycled’ for state reports; if we want to have an option to turn down nonrecyclable products, we should be able to do so. The Circular Economy package rewards companies that have invested in actually making their products recyclable, and it helps consumers understand what purchasing choices they can make to protect the environment.”
The five new laws, which begin to take effect on January 1, 2022, are:
- SB 343 (Allen) brings “truth in labeling” to many plastic and packaging products. After a phase-in period, manufacturers will no longer be allowed to put the “chasing arrows” recycling symbol on items that aren’t actually recyclable in the real world.
- AB 881 (Gonzalez) helps the state accurately measure how much plastic actually gets recycled. It prohibits plastic waste exports to other countries being counted as being “recycled.”
- AB 1201 (Ting) updates labeling for compostable products. Among other requirements, AB 1201 requires compostable products to break down in real life composting conditions, bans toxic PFAS “forever chemicals,” and puts the onus on manufacturers to ensure that their products don’t contaminate organic agriculture. The bill adds to the state’s existing rules for labeling items as compostable or biodegradable only if they meet specific standards, explains an article in Waste Dive. “This update prohibits the sale of plastic products labeled with the term ‘compostable’ or ‘home compostable’ unless the product has a certification from the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), the Compost Manufacturing Alliance, or another third-party certification entity CalRecycle approves.”
- AB 962 (Kamlager) makes it easier for brewers and other beverage producers to create reusable glass bottle systems, which responds to business and consumer preferences by reducing the need for single-use beverage containers.
- AB 1276 (Carrillo) reduces plastic foodware waste by giving takeout customers only what they want. Single-use foodware may only be provided upon request.