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Proposed Legislation In California Addresses Public Concern But Meets Industry Resistance

August 8, 2019: 12:00 AM EST
Three proposed pieces of legislation in California seek to support the state’s struggling recycling industry and shift pressure to manufacturers that use plastic. Recyclers are battling with the consequences of China’s decision to restrict imports of unsorted paper and certain plastics, which has caused oversupply of recyclable material and lowered the price of recycled materials in the US. Also, low gas prices mean plastic is relatively cheap to produce and reduced California State subsidies mean recycling is becoming uneconomic. In one illustration of the difficulties the industry faces, rePlanet, a large collector of beverage bottles and cans, announced it would close its 284 collection centers in California, due to deteriorating economics.

Two of the proposed bills would require manufacturers to reduce waste from packaging as well as certain plastic products, while the third would require manufacturers to progressively boost minimum recycled content in plastic beverage bottles over the next decade or face substantial penalties that rise with how much they miss the target. 

Industry groups, including the American Beverage Association, the American Chemistry Council, and the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association, are working to oppose or change the legislation, raising concerns about the impact on consumers of plastic bans or excessively restrictive regulation. 

Public opinion looks to be on the side of stricter rules. A survey by the Public Policy Institute of California found 72% of Californians see plastics and marine debris as a big problem on their nearest beaches.[Image Credit: © rePlanet, LLC]
Rachel Becker, "Tired of plastic junk? California’s recycling bills propose dramatic new rules", CalMatters, August 08, 2019, © CalMatters
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