California’s recycling leadership has attracted millions of dollars in public and private investment to support the processing and ‘re-manufacturing’ of recycled PET (rPET). Today there are more than a dozen companies in the state employing 1000 workers engaged in processing and manufacturing rPET.
However, this California recycling success story is facing serious challenges. The drastic drops in oil prices have had the effect of undermining the demand and price for California-generated recycled materials—California recycled material processors and recycled product makers are starting to lose market share to out of country virgin plastic material producers.
This is because plastic is a petroleum-based product, and as oil prices fall, plastic productions costs fall as well. With low oil prices, beverage manufacturers like Coca-Cola can buy newly produced plastic at a lower cost than recycled plastic.
This has led many manufacturing industries to reconsider their recycling commitments, and now will only use rPET if it makes economic sense, or if everybody else has to use rPET as well.
As a result, San Francisco adopted a resolution, championed by Supervisor Weiner, urging the legislature to adopt a mandatory 25% minimum recycled content for all single-use plastic beverage containers sold in the state. The resolution points out that California consumers should expect that the plastic containers they buy are made from recycled content, given the state’s high recycling collection rates.
Minimum recycled content creates a closed loop recycling system so that economically valuable material stays out of landfills and isn’t exported out of the country where the outcome is unknown. This policy would also help provide market stability for the more than 1000 green jobs in CA. There is also a significant greenhouse gas savings involved with using recycled content, for rPET there is a 71% reduction in emissions.
Last year CAW sponsored a bill attempting to create a 10% minimum recycled content for PET food and beverage containers, but the bill was held in the legislative process. CAW remains committed to finding ways to convince the state legislature to adopt similar mandates that will support a sustainable and thriving California economy.
Click here for the full text of the SF City Resolution
Click here to read about AB 1447 Minimum Recycled Content Standard