California recycling legislation fails to advance in 2019

California recycling legislation fails to advance in 2019

Two bills aimed at reducing plastic waste will be tabled until the state’s next legislative session.

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September 16, 2019

California lawmakers ended their 2019 legislative session on Sept. 14 without passing several bills that would have been ambitious efforts to reduce plastic pollution, according to The Mercury News newspaper, San Jose, California. 

Senate Bill (SB) 54 and Assembly Bill (AB) 1080 each cleared one house but not both chambers as required, The Mercury News reports. These companion bills would have required companies that sell products widely found in grocery stores and fast-food restaurants to reduce plastic pollution 75 percent by 2030. Also, the bills would have required that single-use packaging and food products to be made of recyclable or compostable materials by 2030. 

The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), Washington, reports that it thinks these two bills needed some work before becoming law.

“The American Forest & Paper Association is pleased SB 54 and AB 1080 will not advance out of California’s 2019 legislative session,” says Terry Webber, executive director of packaging at the AF&PA. “While we agreed with the goals of the legislation to support recycling and reduce waste, it is not ready to become law. These bills would have created an unrealistic regulatory framework for an implementing agency already facing challenges fixing troubled recycling programs. 

“The legislation was advertised to the public as a means to address the pressing problems of plastic waste,” Webber continues. “Paper, with a recovery rate of 68.1 percent in 2018, should not be regulated as if it were plastic, which has a much lower recovery rate. Furthermore, extended producer responsibility is a command and control approach more appropriate for addressing hard-to-handle or hazardous materials and should not be applied to products like paper that provide a sustainable and highly recycled packaging option. We look forward to working with legislators next year to get this legislation right.”

However, lawmakers did send AB 792, a plastics recycling bill, to the governor. The Mercury News reports that bill requires plastic beverage containers sold in California to contain 10 percent recycled plastic by 2021, 25 percent recycled plastic by 2025 and 50 percent recycled plastic by 2030.