First introduced in 2019, the latest iterations of SB 54 and its companion, Assembly Bill 1080, would task state regulators with developing and adopting rules requiring all single-use packaging and “priority single-use products” sold in California to be recyclable or compostable by 2032. It also places source-reduction requirements onto producers. How the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) was to accomplish those regulations would have been left largely up to the agency. The department would have the authority to implement extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs and use other regulatory measures such as deposit systems, design requirements and more.
The bill and subsequent regulations would have required manufacturers to take responsibility for their products after they’ve been discarded by encouraging them to buy back them back to make recycled goods, ensure that they are recyclable, or compostable. However, the barrier is that the recyclable replacements may not actually get recycled as the markets for these materials are severely limited as China and many other countries have stopped taking materials for recycling. Plus, materials that are compostable may not break down without the high temperatures of an industrial composting facility where there is limited capacity.
The bill included significant penalties for companies that did not comply. If the act had been signed into law, companies that failed to comply could have faced fines of up to $50,000 per day if they didn’t develop a plan, and, eventually their products would have been banned from sale in the state.
It is anticipated that a version of the recently defeated bill will be introduced for consideration in 2021.
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