California Enacts Landmark Legislation to Reduce Plastic Pollution
July 6, 2022
The Pack Green Coalition applauds the state of California for leading the way in eliminating plastic pollution after Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 54, the Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act, into law last week. SB 54 creates an extended producer responsibility program for packaging sold, offered for sale, or distributed in the state. In addition, it requires greater recyclability of packaging by 2032 and imposes a fee on single-use plastic packaging and food ware, with proceeds going to monitoring and reducing the environmental and public health impacts of plastics.
“The passage of SB54 is a key step in eliminating plastic waste and transitioning to a circular economy,” said James Asali, President & Chief Executive Officer, Pack Green Coalition. “This landmark legislation will encourage companies and consumers to shift to more sustainable packaging solutions, like paper and other bio-based products, and we look forward to continuing to advocate for solutions that will reduce plastic pollution.”
Below are more details about the bill:
Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act
This bill seeks to shift the burden of costs to collect, process, and recycle materials from the local jurisdictions to the producers of plastic products.
Producers of “covered materials” must be part of a producer responsibility organization (PRO) with a producer responsibility plan approved by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), or they could comply with the act individually without joining a PRO, under certain circumstances.
“Covered materials” include:
Plastic single-use food service ware
This bill excludes packaging for:
Medical products and products defined as devices or prescription drugs
Drugs that are used for animal medicines, including, but not limited to, parasiticide products for animals
Products intended for animals that are regulated as animal drugs, biologics, parasiticides, medical devices, or diagnostics used to treat, or administered to, animals
Fortified oral nutritional supplements used for persons who require supplemental or sole source nutrition to meet nutritional needs due to special dietary needs directly related to cancer, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, malnutrition, or failure to thrive
Products regulated by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act
Products that are classified for transportation as dangerous goods or hazardous materials
Hazardous or flammable products
Beverage containers subject to the California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act
Long-term protection or storage of a product that has a lifespan of not less than five years, as determined by the department
Products covered under the architectural paint recovery program
Covered material for which the producer demonstrates to CalRecycle that the covered material meets all of the following criteria:
The covered material is not collected through a residential recycling collection service.
The covered material does not undergo separation from other materials at a commingled recycling processing facility.
The covered material is recycled at a responsible end market.
The material has demonstrated a recycling rate of 65 percent for three (3) consecutive years prior to January 1, 2027, and on and after that date demonstrates a recycling rate at or over 70 percent annually, as demonstrated to CalRecycle every two (2) years.
This bill requires the following:
All plastic-covered material sold, offered for sale, or distributed in the state must be source-reduced 25% by weight and 25% by plastic component by January 1, 2032, consistent with the following requirements:
By January 1, 2027, the PRO shall source reduce no less than 10% of plastic covered material sold, offered for sale, or distributed in the state by its participant producers (at least 2% of plastic must be shifted to reusable or refillable packaging).
By January 1, 2030, the PRO shall source reduce no less than 20% of plastic covered material sold, offered for sale, or distributed in the state by its participant producers (at least 4% of plastic must be shifted to reusable or refillable packaging).
All covered material offered for sale, distributed, or imported in or into the state on or after January 1, 2032, must be recyclable in the state or eligible for being labeled “compostable”.
All plastic covered material offered for sale, distributed, or imported in or into the state must achieve the following recycling rates:
Not less than 30% of covered material on and after January 1, 2028
Not less than 40% of covered material on and after January 1, 2030
Not less than 65% of covered material on and after January 1, 2032
Producers of expanded polystyrene food service ware shall not sell, offer for sale, distribute, or import these products in or into the state unless all expanded polystyrene meets the following recycling rates:
Not less than 25% on and after January 1, 2025
Not less than 30%on and after January 1, 2028
Not less than 50% on and after January 1, 2030
Not less than 65% on and after January 1, 2032
PROs would charge their participants $500,000,000 annually as an environmental mitigation surcharge to deposit into the California Plastic Pollution Mitigation Fund.
PRO could collect up to $150,000,000 annually from plastic resin manufacturers who sell plastic covered material to the PRO’s participants.
Producers that do not participate in a PRO will be charged an amount determined by CalRecycle based on the number and weight of plastic covered material in their products.
California Plastic Pollution Mitigation Fund distribution:
40% to be expended by the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Wildlife Conservation Board, the State Coastal Conservancy, the California Coastal Commission, the Ocean Protection Council, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Natural Resources Agency, and the California Environmental Protection Agency to monitor and reduce the environmental impacts of plastics on terrestrial, aquatic, and marine life and human health, including to restore, recover, and protect the natural environment.
At least 50% of the amount above would benefit residents living in a disadvantaged or low-income community or rural area.
60% to be expended by the Strategic Growth Council, the California EPA, the Natural Resources Agency, and the Department of Justice to monitor and reduce the historical and current environmental justice and public health impacts of plastics.
The department would charge PROs with a “California circular economy administrative fee,” which would support the implementation and enforcement of the program.
Any entity found not in compliance with the act could be charged with an administrative civil penalty up to $50,000 per day.