On September 9, 2021, California State Bill 343, meant to reduce recycling contamination and consumer confusion around recycling, passed in the state legislature. According to the bill, using terms that make the packaging seem recyclable, such “‘ecologically friendly,’ ‘earth friendly,’ ‘environmentally friendly,’ ‘ecologically sound,’ ‘green product,’ or any other like term, or through the use of a chasing arrows symbol” is only allowed on materials that are readily recyclable in the state of California.
A packaging product is considered ‘readily recyclable’ if at least 60% of the people of California can recycle it through local programs. State agency CalRecycle would be responsible for assessing which products are considered recyclable in the state of California by January 1, 2024. Manufacturers would then have to change any “deceptive or misleading” packaging claims within 18 months. According to reporting by Waste Dive, “the legislation has support from Waste Management, Republic Services, Recology, the city and county of Los Angeles and dozens of other haulers, recyclers, nonprofits, advocacy groups and local governments interested in getting low-value contaminants out of the recycling system.” Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to officially sign the bill into law before October 10, 2021.
Other recycling actions passed by the California legislature this session include AB 881, which says California cannot count exported scrap plastic as “recycled” under the states’ sustainability goals, and AB 1201 which prohibits the use of the terms “compostable” or “home compostable” unless the packaging or product is certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI).
California Legislature (September 9, 2021). “SB-343 Environmental advertising: recycling symbol: recyclability: products and packaging.” (pdf)
Cole Rosengren (September 9, 2021). “California legislature passes high-profile bill to regulate recyclability labels.” Waste Dive
Hiroko Tabuchi and Winston Choi-Schagrin (September 9, 2021). “California Aims to Ban Recycling Symbols on Things That Aren’t Recyclable.” New York Times
Megan Quinn (September 14, 2021). “California lawmakers end session by passing slate of recycling, organics bills.” Waste Dive