Insights / Sustainability

California Releases New Details on SB 54 EPR Packaging Law

Single-use plastic packaging for products sold in the state of California must be
100% recyclable or compostable by 2032. Are you prepared?

California capitol dome

CPG companies marketing products with single-use and other plastic packaging in the state of California must take action to comply with the state's SB 54 extended producer responsibility (EPR) packaging law. In December 2023, CalRecycle (California's Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery) published new details on the EPR regulation that shed more light on what brand owners and other producers need to do.

The California EPR packaging law aims to reduce single-use plastic packaging and food service ware in the state by 10% by 2027, 20% by 2030, and 25% by 2032; recycle 30% of single-use plastic packaging and food ware by 2028, 40% by 2030, and 65% by 2032; and ensure that 100% of single-use plastic packaging and food ware is recyclable or compostable by 2032.

Depending on the product application, producers can choose from several options (e.g., package redesign, material light-weighting or conversion, component reduction, refill and reuse models, recycled content, and plastics with higher recycling rates) to comply with the state's packaging targets.

To fund the implementation costs and to shift the financial burden from consumers to producers, the EPR program will collect $5 billion from industry members (producers/CPG companies/plastic resin manufacturers) over 10 years (2027–2037).

SB 54 Updates

The updated data includes revised draft rules detailing new industry responsibilities to cut waste and increase recycling, a Covered Materials Category List of potential materials regulated by SB 54, and an SB 54 Report to the state legislature on the Recyclability Status of Covered Material Categories (CMCs) and implementation progress.

SB 54 requires CalRecycle to use criteria established by the SB 343 Accurate Recycling Labels law to assess the recyclability of CMCs. For materials to be considered recyclable, in addition to meeting product-specific criteria established by SB 343, they must be:

1) A type and form of material accepted by jurisdiction recycling programs providing service to at least 60% of the state's population.

2) Recovered and sorted into defined streams by large volume transfer processors (LVTPs) providing service to at least 60% of statewide recycling programs.

In the SB 54 Report, CalRecycle determined that 37 out of 98 CMCs (38%) met the two criteria, including most types of glass, aluminum, cardboard, paper, and rigid plastics PET, HDPE, and PP. The report also noted that these 37 CMCs “generally consist of materials that have established and robust recyclable material markets, meaning that processors have a buyer for the recycled-content feedstock they produce.”

According to a recent analysis by law firm Steptoe LLC, “these [recyclability] requirements [SB 343] stand in contrast to the requirements outlined in the current iteration of the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) so-called Green Guides, which impose a somewhat lower standard for making recyclable claims. In addition, these requirements stand in potential conflict with requirements imposed under the laws of dozens of other states, which require the use of RICs [resin identification codes] with the surrounding chasing arrows for certain packaging materials.”

SB 54 Background

Officially titled the Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act and enacted in June 2022, SB 54 creates an extended producer responsibility organization (PRO) and program to compel producers (CPG companies and plastic resin manufacturers) to pay for improvements in package recycling and plastic pollution mitigation.

The regulation establishes timelines for the creation of the PRO, graduated recycling rates for plastics and other types of single-use packaging, reductions in single-use plastics through the elimination of plastic packaging or switching to reuse and refill systems, and a target for packaging to be either recyclable or compostable.

Exemptions to the EPR legislation include PET beverage containers (covered by the state's bottle redemption law), medical products and prescription drugs, infant formula, refillable/reusable products, and hazardous materials, among others as more specifically identified in the legislative text. Companies (producers, wholesalers, and retailers of consumer packaged goods) with less than $1 million in annual gross sales in the state are also exempt.

Key Dates

·       January 8, 2024: CalRecycle selects the Circular Action Alliance as the state's PRO for SB 54.

·        2027–2037: The PRO will collect $500 million per year from CPG companies for a plastic pollution mitigation fund and is also authorized to collect up to $150 million from plastic resin manufacturers.

·        2027: 10% source reduction in single-use plastic packaging and food service ware.

·        2028: 30% of plastics and other types of single-use packaging must be recyclable.

·        2030: 40% of plastics and other types of single-use packaging must be recyclable.

·        2030: 20% source reduction in single-use plastic packaging and food service ware.

·        2032: 65% of plastics and other types of single-use packaging must be recyclable.

·        2032: 25% source reduction in single-use plastic packaging and food service ware.

·        2032: All plastics and other single-use packaging must be recyclable or compostable.

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The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney. It is the customer’s responsibility to determine whether its filled product is subject to any applicable government regulations and to ensure compliance with such regulations.

Robert Swinetek

By: Robert Swientek
Date: February 20, 2024
Updated: March 19, 2024

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