California Leading The Nation With Clean Plastics Recycling Law

California signed a new clean plastics law, making all plastic containers for drinking to contain recycled materials with 50% recycled products by 2050. 

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Under the new law, soda, water, and all bottled products must have at least 15% recycled plastic in new plastic bottles by the year 2022, with 25% recycled plastic by 2025, and the ultimate goal of 50% recycled plastic products by the year 2030.

Supporters of the new law say it will help increase demand for recycled plastic, curb litter in waterways and along roads, and reduce consumption of oil and gas, which are used to manufacture new plastics. “This is the most ambitious, aggressive recycled plastics content law in the world,” said Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, an organization based in Sacramento. 

The bill, AB 793 is among the most significant environmental laws passed for this year’s legislature. In the State of California, over 12 billion plastic bottles are sold in stores annually. 70% of products are recycled, usually as other forms of plastic packaging. Currently over three billion bottles are not recycled. The majority of these are dumped in landfills or tossed in landfills or the sea. 

“We are doing a really good job of collecting things for recycling,” Murray said. “The difficult part has been finding an end-use market for it. This new law is about closing the loop. They’ll have the responsibility.” California currently regulates that 35% of glass bottles sold in the state are made of recycled content, and 50% of newspapers and magazines must be made from recycled materials. 

The company Naked Juice uses bottles made 100%  of recycled content. Evian publicly stated it will make all its water bottles from 100% recycled plastics by mid-decade.

Rather than fighting the bill, the plastics industry, container manufacturers, and retailers have focused their efforts on a more controversial plastics pollution bill this year in Sacramento, SB54. That would require companies to reduce the waste generated from single-use packaging with 75% recycled materials in plastic plates, utensils, and cups in California by 2030. That bill recently failed last year, was brought up again last month, as environmental groups submitted more than 870,000 signatures on the measure to vote on it again as law in 2022.

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