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Plastics Companies, Brands Keep Eyes on CA SB 54 Deadline

The formal rule-making process for a California law targeting waste from single-use packaging and plastic food ware is set to begin.

Kate Bertrand Connolly

January 16, 2024

3 Min Read
Peter Dazeley, The Image Bank/Getty Images

California’s refinement of its extended producer responsibility (EPR) program, established under SB 54, continues to move forward, with the state’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) releasing draft rules and a covered materials list.

The state’s governor signed SB 54, the Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act, into law in June 2022. The legislation establishes an ERP program to address environmental impacts of single-use packaging and single-use plastic food ware, shifting the responsibility for this type of waste to producers.

In December 2023, CalRecycle released four documents required for the law’s implementation:

  • Draft regulatory text

  • Covered Material Category List

  • Covered Material Category Supplemental Material

  • SB 54 report to the legislature

The draft regulatory text includes producer requirements and responsibilities, covered materials, environmental marketing and labeling, data reporting, and more.

The updated Covered Material Category (CMC) List and supplement provide detailed recycling/composting data on materials under the purview of SB 54, including single-use packaging materials such as plastics, paper and fiber, glass, and metal.

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The CMC list also includes materials used to make plastic single-use foodservice ware, including multilayer flexible plastic materials and plastic-coated paper and paperboard.

CalRecycle’s report to the legislature explains how the agency evaluated the recyclability of CMCs. The agency determined that 38% of CMCs (37 out of 98 categories) are recyclable in California. These include PET, high-density polyethylene (HDPE), and polypropylene (PP), as well as most types of glass, aluminum, cardboard, and paper.

Brand owners accept producer responsibility.

SB 54 requires producers to create a $5 billion fund to address the environmental impact of plastics. In addition, users of single-use packaging and plastic food ware must create an industry-led producer responsibility organization (PRO), to be overseen by CalRecycle.

The PRO is required, by 2032, to reduce single-use packaging and plastic food ware by 25%, recycle 65% of these products, and ensure100% recyclability or compostability.

The application period for the state’s first PRO, the Circular Action Alliance (CAA), closed on January 1, 2024.

CAA’s membership is a who’s who of consumer packaged goods brand owners and retailers. The group’s 18 founding members include Amazon, Clorox, Colgate-Palmolive, General Mills, Kraft Heinz, L’Oréal, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Target, Coca-Cola, Unilever, and Walmart. CAA’s current membership represents more than 900 brands sold in the United States.

“Producers may not sell, offer for sale, import or distribute covered materials in the state after January 1, 2027, unless the producer is a member of a PRO or is complying individually with the statute according to PRC 42051(b)(1) and (2) respectively,” says Melanie Turner, a CalRecycle spokesperson.

SB 54 rulemaking process to begin.

CalRecycle’s submission of “all required documents, including the draft formal regulations, to [California’s] Office of Administrative Law will trigger the start of the formal rulemaking process and a 45-day comment period,” Turner says.

“In addition to accepting written comment letters, CalRecycle will host a formal regulatory public hearing during that public comment period to receive oral public comments on the draft regulations either in person or via Zoom,” she adds.

The agency will also continue a statewide needs assessment to drive the activities and investments required to reach SB 54’s goals, engaging with CAA, the SB 54 Advisory Board, local jurisdictions, and other interested parties.

CalRecycle will host a question-and-answer session on February 1, 2024, to present the draft regulatory text to the public. The agency plans to host the first SB 54 Advisory Board meeting shortly thereafter.

The final regulations needed to implement and enforce SB 54 will be promulgated by January 1, 2025.

About the Author(s)

Kate Bertrand Connolly

Freelance Writer

Kate Bertrand Connolly has been covering innovations, trends, and technologies in packaging, branding, and business since 1981.

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