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The state of California introduced a bill to reduce plastic waste and regulate composting standards

The state of California introduced a bill to reduce plastic waste and regulate composting standards


In October 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a package of six bills aimed at reducing plastic waste, improving recycling, and clarifying labeling standards for recyclables and compostables. These new laws mark a renewed effort to promote recycling and regulate green advertising, and could mean major changes for many companies.

The bill package includes the following:

SB 343: Authenticity of recyclable labels. Products and packaging must comply with the new and stricter specifications before they can be labeled with a recyclable label with a chasing arrow symbol (i.e. Mobius ring).

AB 1201: The authenticity of the compostable label. Products and packaging must comply with new and stricter regulations before they can be labeled as compostable.

AB 1276: Disposable food utensils and packaging condiments. Dine-in customers must request plastic tableware, straws and condiment packs. Restaurants can ask drive-through customers if they need it.

AB 818: disposable wipes. It is required to put a "do not rinse" label on certain wipe products.

AB 881: Export waste. The aim is to reduce the export of mixed plastics that ultimately cannot be recycled.

AB 962: Reusable glass bottle. Expand the current plan, in which the state pays a per-bottle charge for those who recycle glass by shredding glass and melting it into new glass, as well as those who wash and reuse bottles.

To date, the most prominent effort to regulate environmental marketing statements is the Federal Trade Commission's ("FTC") guidelines for the use of environmental marketing statements, commonly referred to as "green guidelines", which were originally published in 16 CFR Part 260 in 1992. The FTC has issued green guidelines to ensure that the environmental claims made by marketers for their products and services are true and well-founded. As institutional guidelines, they have no legal effect and cannot be independently enforced. However, if the environmental claims made by marketers are inconsistent with the Green Guidelines, the FTC has the ability to take action under Article 5 of the FTC Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive practices.

The biggest impact on many advertisers is the higher requirements for recyclable and compostable labels in SB 343 and AB 1201, which far exceeds the impact of the Green Guidelines. Regarding recyclability, SB 343 stipulates that Cal Recycle will develop a list of commonly used recycled materials in facilities in the state by January 1, 2024. According to the report, the law stipulates that only products that meet the following requirements can be marked as "recyclable":

The product was collected in a roadside recycling program, which covers at least 60% of the state’s population;

Can be classified into defined categories;

It can be recycled in appropriate facilities.

Products collected by non-roadside programs can only be marked as "recyclable" if the program "recycles at least 60% of the products or packaging in the program" and the materials can be sorted and aggregated in defined categories. 18 months after Cal Recycle publishes the list (and after each update of the list), manufacturers must ensure that their products meet the new standards. This means that the company will start selling new products in 2025.

Companies responsible for marking products as compostable should recognize that AB 1201 requires anyone selling products marked as "compostable" or "home compostable" to ensure that these products comply with applicable ASTM standard specifications.

California is not the only country that has passed stricter environmental regulations. New York still has pending legislation to prohibit false claims about recyclability of products. Similarly, Maine and Oregon passed laws in the summer that require companies to pay for recycling packaging. More and more environmental organizations are filing lawsuits in an attempt to combat misleading claims by large companies about recyclability, which shows that advertisers need to redouble their efforts to make their environmental marketing statements compliant.

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