A recycled plastic requirement for beverage container producers cleared the California legislature last week. But comprehensive legislation reducing single-use packaging failed to advance.
Building recycled plastic demand
Producers of most plastic beverage containers sold in California will need to include 10% recycled plastic across their product offerings by 2021 and 50% by 2030.
Assembly Bill 792 cleared the California State Assembly on a 60-12 vote on Friday, which was the final day for lawmakers to pass bills before the session closed.
Under the bill, plastic bottles that are covered under the state’s container redemption program will be subject to phased-in recycled plastic mandates. Manufacturers’ usage will be evaluated across the company’s entire product line sold in California, meaning not all of a company’s containers will need to include recycled plastic as long as the overall percentage meets the mandate.
The percentages and timeline were softened multiple times during the course of the bill’s development. It originally set a 100% recycled plastic mandate by 2035. Later, that was reduced to a maximum of 75% by 2030. The mandate was further reduced to 50% by 2030 in the final version that passed last week.
A legislative analysis of the bill put the mandates in the context of major beverage companies voluntarily increasing their recycled plastic use. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, for example, have announced recycled feedstock goals in recent years.
“While these goals indicate that incorporating additional recycled content is possible, currently the vast majority of plastic beverage containers contain little to no recycled content,” the analysis states.
In previous hearings on the bill, proponents said the bill would build demand for recycled plastic, creating an industry that could even outpace the bill’s content requirements. Opponents pointed to insufficient collection infrastructure.
Nestlé Waters North America, which initially opposed the bill, released a statement praising the passage of the final legislation.
Describing the bill as “ambitious and workable,” the company pointed to one change in particular that influenced its position shift. In the final text, the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) must, at least annually and at most twice per year at the request of the beverage industry, consider whether the requirements are realistic in light of a variety of factors. The agency will analyze market conditions, the availability of recycled plastic, the capacity of recycling and processing infrastructure, and more.
Upon a request from beverage manufacturers, CalRecycle must consider the petition within 60 days, according to the bill. If the agency determines the requirements are unrealistic, CalRecycle has the authority to reduce or suspend the recycled plastic mandate.