US first: California bill requires 50 percent recycled content in plastic bottles by 2030
19 Sep 2019 --- Marking a first for the US, California has passed a proposal to legally enforce a minimum-amount standard of recycled materials in plastic bottles. The final version of Assembly Bill 792 requires containers in the state’s deposit program to reach 50 percent recycled content by 2030. As recycling rates in the US still hover around 30 percent, this bill demonstrates key environmental leadership that will help reduce litter and boost demand for used plastic materials.
“There’s a terrible cost to our environment if manufacturers are allowed to continue making new plastic every time they need a beverage container. They should reuse what they’ve already made,” says State Assembly Member Phil Ting (D-San Francisco). “If we don’t change now, we will have more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050.”
Assembly Bill 792 will require beverage manufacturers to use 10 percent recycled plastic in their containers sold in California starting on January 1, 2021. That percentage increases to 25 percent by January 1, 2025 and 50 percent by January 1, 2030. These requirements pertain to all beverage containers subject to the California Redemption Value.
The original legislative draft set out to require 100 percent minimum recycled content by 2035. Despite not achieving this goal, this target is likely the highest of its kind in the world. This bill’s passing can be deemed a great success given the fact that lower targets have faced bold opposition in recent years. Moreover, the mandate currently exceeds the EU’s projected plastic content limitation, which stands at 30 percent recycled content required by 2030.
The Janus face of the bill
In California alone, nearly 12 billion plastic bottles are sold every year. While many plastic bottles are made of recyclable content, more than three billion bottles are not recycled at all, and are dumped in landfills. Nevertheless, the bill built up a bi-partisan debate.
A coalition of nearly 40 environmental organizations in support of the bill pointed out that current recycled content requirements for glass containers successfully reduce pollution and stimulate closed-loop manufacturing in California. Groups in opposition question whether the market is ready to supply the amount of recycled plastic necessary to meet the requirements of the bill and prefer an aggregate requirement rather than a per-bottle requirement.
Organizations in favor of the bill included the Association of California Recycling Industries, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Nestlé Waters North America and Zero Waste USA. The bill was opposed by the California Bottled Water Association, the Plastics Industry Association and the Plastics Recycling Corporation of California.
“This bill, and several other bills this session, show it is time for producers to become part of the solution,” Laura Ferrante, Government Affairs Advocate for the California Refuse Recycling Council's (CRRC) northern district, said in a statement.
Edited by Anni Schleicher
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