The Future of Recycling in California: Reinvesting in Market Development and Infrastructure; source reducing non-recyclables from the marketplace
Waste reduction and recycling policy in California is at a crossroad, with serious challenges to the economic underpinnings of some programs, and a loss of public faith in its efficacy, including:
Loss of historic end-use markets for some categories of ‘mixed recyclables.’
A global depression in the market scrap value for many recycled commodities.
Overreliance on ‘back-end’ financing of recycling that is unable to respond to an increasingly expensive to recycle plastic and plastic coated paper packaging stream.
An outdated materials processing infrastructure that in some cases fails to meet the quality needs of end-users.
Public confusion and a tendency toward ‘wishful recycling’ rather than ‘source reduction’ of problem products and packaging.
Californians Against Waste’s top priority will be leveraging public and local government concern regarding the twin crisis of Plastic Pollution and “National Sword” to advance and expand a proven package of Producer Responsibility for Recycling policies, including:
Among the big picture objectives:
Producer Responsibility for achieving recycling rates and dates as a condition of sale.
Substantially increase packaging sector financial support for the recycling infrastructure.
Specifically, investing in infrastructure for in-state/west coast processing of paper.
Leveraging ‘Recycle or Die’ policies to stimulate private investment in recyclable plastic and plastic coated paper, while ‘source reducing’ materials with no recycling potential out of the marketplace.
Producer Responsibility for Market Development through a combination of mandatory recycled content and/or direct investment in material processing and re-manufacturing.
Additional focus will include updating the state’s landfill “tip fee” to reflect the increased cost of waste disposal and regulation, as well as investment in organics recovery and composting.
AB 1080 (Gonzalez, Freidman, Ting) & SB 54 (Allen, Wiener, Skinner, Stern) — The California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act
California policymakers are boldly committing to ending the state’s contribution to plastic pollution in our environment. These two companion bills develop a comprehensive framework for reducing plastic pollution and reforming wasteful product packaging. The bills go beyond product-by-product policies to require significant reductions in the use of disposable products and to require manufacturers to make packaging exclusively out of recyclable materials that actually get recycled.
Specifically, the bills would require CalRecycle to adopt regulations to source reduce or recycle at least 75% of single-use plastic packaging and products by 2030. The bills would require a manufacturer of single-use plastic packaging or products sold or distributed in California to demonstrate a recycling rate of not less than 20% on and after January 1, 2022, and not less than 40% on and after January 1, 2026.
AB 1583 (Eggman) — The California Recycling Market Development Act
For far too long, the United State’s recycling infrastructure has relied on overseas markets. These countries, China, India, and others, are beginning to adopt policies that limit the import of foreign waste. While some have argued that this means that we should give up on recycling or start burning all of our trash, Assemblymember Susan Eggman has introduced legislation to reinvest in California recycling.
AB 1583 reauthorizes existing, and creates new, recycling infrastructure development programs, including sales tax exemptions, low interest loans, and new incentive payment programs. The bill also helps the state develop a commission of private and public sector recyclers to develop strategies for education and to promote the product design for recyclability.
AB 792 (Ting) – Mandatory Recycled Content in Plastic Bottles
In order to encourage efficient use of recyclable plastics, AB 792 will set a series of graduated minimum recycled content levels for all plastic beverage containers, starting at 25% in 2021 and increasing incrementally thereafter. While California has one of the nation’s most successful Bottle Bills, more than 3 billion bottles are still dumped in the landfill every year. Additionally, since China implemented its National Sword policy in early 2018, much of the recyclable material we once exported is now ending up in landfills or the environment. AB 792 is similar to last year’s SB 168 (Wieckowski).
SB 724 (Stern, Glazer)—Bottle Bill buy-back centers
Similar to last year's SB 452 (Glazer), SB 724 increases funding to recycling centers in response to the dramatic decline in recycling facilities in recent years. Outdated regulatory provisions and falling international scrap prices as a result of cheap oil have caused over 1/3 of California’s recycling facilities to close down in the past few years, leaving more than 127 cities and 2 counties without operating centers. In response, SB 724 proposes a short-term fix for California’s Beverage Container Recycling Program (the Bottle Bill) that would restore support for our recycling infrastructure, and provide CalRecycle with new incentives and authority to return recycling to unserved/underserved communities across the state. This bill is virtually identical to last year’s SB 452 which had bipartisan support and only 2 no votes, but was subsequently vetoed by Governor Brown.
Other Current Legislation
Outside of National Sword’s shadow, California’s 2019-2020 legislative session presents ample opportunity to implement sensible waste reduction policy. (Click Here for Past Legislation)
AB 827 (McCarty)—Customer access to recycling To help California meet its recycling and waste diversion goals, this bill would require businesses that are currently required to have recycling (AB 341) or organics (AB 1826) service and provide recycling/composting bins to their customers.
AB 1509 (Mullin, Berman)—Lithium-ion Batteries There has been a substantial influx of lithium-ion batteries found in our everyday items, from cell phones and laptops, to power tools and children’s’ toys. While their versatility in size and energy storage capabilities make them popular, they pose a serious fire threat when improperly disposed of. Given the amount of fires that have already caused by lithium-ion batteries at waste processing facilities, this bill seeks to develop a comprehensive producer responsibility framework to ensure their proper after-life management.
AB 614 (Eggman)—“Farm to Food Bank” tax credit Expands the types of foods eligible for the "Farm to Food Bank" tax credit from only produce to items like rice, beans, nuts, meat, and dairy.
SB 8 (Glazer) / AB 1718 (Levine)—Smoking ban for State Parks and Beaches A reintroduction of legislation to prohibit smoking at State Parks and Beaches. Governor Brown vetoed this legislation three times.
AB 161 (Ting)—“Skip the Slip” paper receipts on request Currently, 10 million trees and 21 billion gallons of water are used to create paper receipts in the United States. These receipts generate 686 million pounds of waste and 12 billion pounds of carbon dioxide, which is the equivalent of one million cars on the road. In an effort to combat this, AB 161 would require all businesses in California to make electronic receipts the default, unless a paper receipt is requested.
AB 1163 (Eggman)—Right to Repair The United States alone generated 6.3 million tons of e-waste in 2016. In California, we throw out 46,900 phones alone each day. Right to Repair is a nationwide movement aiming to extend the life of electronics by making it easier for people and businesses to make repairs. This bill extends California’s existing warranty laws by adding individual owners and regulated independent service dealers to the entities eligible to receive functional parts and service literature from manufacturers for electronics and appliances.
AB 129 (Bloom)—Microfiber Pollution When plastic litter breaks down in our ecosystem, it turn into tiny pieces called microplastics. When clothing made of synthetic materials are washed, they also release tiny pieces of plastic called microfibers. It is unclear just how long microfibers can live in our ecosystem, and have been found in remote marine habitats, drinking water, and in the food we eat. This bill would require the State Water Resource Board to test microfiber filtration systems, adopt a standard methodology for evaluating the filtration systems, and publish the results. It would also phase in washing machine filtration system requirements for public entities that use a laundry system, like universities and prisons, or those that contract with the State for these services, then expand to all businesses.
AB 619 (Chiu)—Bring-your-own reusable food and beverage containers Allows use of reusable food and beverage containers at restaurants and temporary events.
AB 1162 (Kalra)—Single use hotel toiletries Prohibits the distribution of single use toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, lotion) at hotels.
SB 667 (Hueso)—Organic Waste Infrastructure Creates an incentive program for organics and paper recycling. Also directs CalRecycle to develop a multi-year GGRF plan and creates an unspecified continuous GGRF appropriation.
AB 144 (Aguiar-Curry)—Organic Waste Scoping Plan Directs the Strategic Growth Council to develop a cross-sector “scoping plan” for organic waste from urban, agricultural, and forestry sources
AB 187 (Garcia)—Used Mattress Recovery and Recycling Act This bill would implement a series of changes to the Used Mattress Recovery and Recycling Act in response the legislative audit conducted last year, including requiring the organization to include additional specified information and goals, budget, and annual reports, and require the advisory committee to prepare written recommendations for the organization
SB 424 (Jackson)—Tobacco Waste Reduction and EPR Bans the sale of single-use tobacco products (single-use filters, single-use plastic devices needed for manipulation of tobacco products, single use electronic cigarettes) and mandate manufacturers of tobacco products to use recyclable materials or create a mail-back or take-back program for components that are not recyclable.
SB 726 (Caballero)—Household Hazardous Waste Reuse Allows local Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) programs to hold materials on site for reuse by customers.
AB 729 (Chu)—Carpet Recycling Requires a carpet stewardship organization to include a description of the process by which it will transfer assessment funds to a successor organization in the event such an action becomes necessary, and requires the organization to transfer those funds to a successor with an approved plan.
AB 1672 (Bloom)—Flushable Products Prohibits a manufacturer from labeling products as safe to flush, safe for sewer systems, or safe for septic systems unless they meet the International Water Services Flushability Group testing methods and criteria for flushability. Nonflushable products will have to be labeled clearly to communicate that they should not be flushed.