Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Legislation to Receive Renewed Consideration in California

Senate Bill 54 establishes requirements for plastics packaging reduction, alongside framework for future recycling program funding and requirements for a number of packaging formats 
 Last week, an amended version of California Senate Bill 54, was released by bill sponsor Sen. Ben Allen. The legislation, passed by the Senate in January of this year, would create a broad-based EPR packaging and printed paper recycling and recovery program. While the legislation is unique in terms of requiring a 25% reduction in single-use plastic packaging use by 2032, it contains many other elements in considered and approved state-focused EPR legislation, seen over the past two years. It establishes a Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO), which will oversee packaging-based fee structures for brands, and have responsibility for implementing an outside needs assessment for municipalities. The legislation also requires all covered packaging be recyclable, compostable or reusable in outlying years. A significant portion of funding collected from the brands would be directed to both expand and improve recycling programs and connected facilities across the state. The amended language (below) includes a specific reference to label and similar elements (inks, adhesives) that may be detrimental to the recovery or recycling of covered packaging.  (2) If recycling or composting of the covered material is made more difficult by the incorporation of specific elements, including, but not limited to, inks, labels, and adhesives that may be detrimental to recycling or composting according to the Association of Plastic Recyclers design guide or other relevant industry association, or other criteria established by the department, the fee for that covered material shall be sufficient to account for the increased cost to manage that covered material. The PRO is directed in the bill to adjust costs upwards for brands using labels and elements deemed detrimental to recycling. That cost is currently unknown, and will be developed during the regulatory process should the legislation pass. Outside of bottle bill/deposit beverage containers and limited specialty product categories, nearly all consumer facing packaging is covered. There is no prohibition on label use in the legislation. Other references to labeling are connected to what future waste characterization studies will determine what packaging may be labeled as either recyclable, compostable, and similar environmental claims. Next Steps Timing remains tight for the bill to complete the legislative process prior to session adjournment. If it does succeed, sponsors may seek removal of a scheduled November plastics packaging fee-focused ballot initiative. SB 54 will likely be heard in the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources next week, but has not yet been added to the agenda.

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