In late August, the California Assembly Appropriations Committee passed Senate Bill 343, which would prohibit manufacturers from placing the familiar “chasing arrows” symbol on items that are destined for landfills, reserving the symbol for products that are truly recyclable. “Manufacturers owe it to consumers to be clear if their material is not recyclable,” said Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), who authored the law. “This bill gets at misleading recycling symbols placed on products that don’t actually indicate real recyclability. By prohibiting the use of the recycling symbol on those items that aren’t really recyclable, we can reduce contamination and costs in the sorting system and save ratepayers money.”
Notes a press release from Californians Against Waste (CAW), which supports the proposed law, the product makers themselves know that consumers believe the “chasing arrows” symbol means that an item goes into the recycling bin. CAW cites a Consumer Brands Association report, which found that recycling was more confusing to consumers than doing taxes, and 68% of people believe that the “chasing arrows” symbol means that an item is recyclable. In addition, according to the 2021 report by the Statewide Commission on Recycling Markets and Curbside Recycling, “[s]ince consumers equate the ‘recycle’ word and symbol with what is accepted in curbside recycling bins, the ‘recycle’ word and symbol must be reserved for materials which are accepted in curbside bins and do not cause contamination.”
SB 343 will “lead manufacturers to make more sustainable packaging decisions, reduce greenwashing, build strong recycling markets, and restore the public faith in the recycling system,” says Nick Lapis, CAW’s Director of Advocacy. “I urge the Legislature to take the next steps to send the measure to the Governor.” The measure is strongly opposed by plastic, battery, and other product manufacturers. To go to the Governor’s Desk, the Legislature must pass SB 343 no later than September 10, 2021. The Governor then has until October 10, 2021 to sign the bill into law.