California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill on June 30 to dramatically reduce single-use waste in the Golden State by shifting responsibility from consumers to the industry that produces it.
The legislation, SB 54 – also known as the “Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act” – will apply to almost any type of plastic packaging you might see in a Californian grocery store or a big box.
Acting as an extended producer responsibility law, SB 54 requires all single-use state packaging to be recyclable or compostable by 2032, reducing plastic packaging by 25% in 10 years and requiring that 65 % of all single-use plastic packaging is recycled. in the same period of time. It is estimated that currently more than 90% of plastic waste in California is not recycled.
The new legislation hasn’t come about quickly, as it first appeared in 2019 when it was introduced by California Senator Ben Allen. It’s the culmination of strong bipartisan efforts to create a regulatory system that puts the onus back on the producers who create the single-use waste found in California’s waterways, harming its environment.
Additionally, the legislation aims to raise $5 billion from members of the plastics industry over 10 years to support efforts to reduce plastic pollution and support disadvantaged communities most affected by the harmful effects of plastic waste. .
“Our children deserve a future free of plastic waste and all its dangerous impacts – from clogging our oceans to killing animals; contaminating the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat,” Newsom said. “No more. California will not tolerate plastic waste that fills our waterways and makes it harder to breathe. We hold polluters accountable and cut plastics at the source.
In particular, SB 54 requires that 30% of all plastic packaging be recycled in California by January 2028, 40% by January 2030, and at least 65% by January 2032. Additionally, SB 54 requires:
- A 25% reduction at source of single-use plastic waste from 2023 levels, meaning that by 2032 industry must have stopped distributing a quantity, by number and unit weight, of plastic equal to 25% of plastic packaging distributed in California in 2023;
- CalRecycle, which regulates waste management in California, will provide oversight as producers comply with SB 54 requirements, which means that all producers of covered materials – (defined by SB 54 as certain single-use packaging and items single-use plastic catering equipment) – covered by law must join a state-licensed Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) or comply with the terms of SB 54 without joining. Among other things, the PRO will be responsible for reporting annually to CalRecycle and developing and implementing a plan to achieve the goals of the law – (non-member producers should do these things themselves). The law also imposes huge penalties of $50,000/violation/day; and
- Producers must pay an annual mitigation fee of $500 million ($5 billion in funds by 2032), which will be used to combat the harmful effects of single-use waste pollution on the environment and human health, with a particular focus on impacts on environmental justice, disadvantaged, low-income and rural communities who suffer disproportionately from these burdens.
SB 54 provides limited exemptions for certain covered products, including medical products, devices, and drugs; infant formula, medical foods and certain supplements; pesticides; dangerous goods and hazardous materials; and long-term packaging for storage with a shelf life of five years.
The passage of SB 54 propels California into the ranks of several other states that have enacted similar extended producer responsibility laws. Oregon and Maine created similarly themed extended producer responsibility laws last year, and Colorado enacted one earlier in June 2022.
As expected, SB 54 not only targets manufacturers but also sellers of goods sold in California and will therefore apply to owners of a brand or trademark under which the product is sold or brought into California by distributors. or retailers.
California’s new law is one of the nation’s most comprehensive plastics laws to pass.
It wouldn’t be surprising if other states and countries follow suit. It would also be wise for companies and entities potentially subject to SB 54 requirements to stay up to date on new developments to ensure they are in full compliance with any new requirements that are promulgated.