California Adopts Nation’s Most Comprehensive Paper And Plastic Packaging Bill
On June 28, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 54 into law following its unanimous approval by the state senate. The new law will require all plastic packaging in the state to reach a 30% recycling rate by 2028, which will increase to 65% by 2032.
The legislation is part of Newsom’s broader plan to mitigate the effects of climate change. It creates an extended producer responsibility (EPR) program in an effort to minimize waste.
“This is a pretty big deal,” says PPAI Public Affairs Manager Maurice Norris. “We’ve been following policy proposals related to extended producer responsibility for a few years, and while California isn’t the first state to do this, it’s certainly the biggest. This is probably the most ambitious plastics packaging requirement in the country.”
Increased regulations in a state the size of California can have large ramifications for companies throughout the United States. Many other states may follow in California’s ambitions, creating a sort of plastic recycling standard for packagers.
- The promotional products industry is already well versed in how individual states’ measures can affect national markets, such as the California Prop 65 requirement for warning labels on products made with potentially toxic chemicals.
- “I think a lot of companies will be scrutinizing how much business they’re doing in California,” Norris says. “Some others will be treating these new requirements like Prop 65, where they’re asking clients if the products are being sent to California. I also think a lot of waste diversion consultants’ work schedules will be filling up soon.”
- The bill’s EPR provisions go into effect on Jan. 1, 2027, giving companies time to prepare to adhere to the legislation’s requirements, as well as consider the possibility of relocating packaging centers outside of the state.
- Supporters moved quickly to get the bill to Newsom on the same day that the state Senate voted 29-0 to pass. One day earlier, the bill received nearly unanimous approval in the state assembly.
- California has become the fourth state, alongside Colorado, Maine and Oregon, to pass legislation that includes an EPR policy for packaging. Being the largest state in the nation by population, SB 54 is considered the most significant paper and plastic packaging bill in the U.S.
- Different versions of the bill were unable to make their way through the state legislature, failing in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
- Ben Allen, the primary sponsor of the bill, said in a statement, “In this time of extreme polarization in our nation, California was able to show that we can pass strong environmental legislation with bipartisan support that brought together the environmental and business communities.”
- Had the measure not passed through the California State Legislature, petitioners were prepared to take the issue to the voter ballot initiative this coming November.
- Luz Rivas, Assemblywoman and coauthor of the bill said, “Today we make history; tomorrow we focus on ensuring our SB 54 goals to reduce plastic pollution are met.”