As the summer began, a majority of states had gone back into action following COVID-19 shutdowns. Many of the actions and regulatory proceedings will have a direct impact on flexible packaging for many years to come.
S2515 was introduced in New Jersey on June 4. It would establish new recycled-content standards for rigid plastic containers, glass containers, paper carryout bags, reusable carryout bags made of plastic film, and plastic trash bags. Under the bill, rigid plastic containers would have to include at least 35% recycled content by January 2022, unless that type of container is not recycled in New Jersey at least 35% of the time. While this proposal does not specifically impact flexible packages, it is a precedent and could become the first recycled-content requirement since the 1990s.
In June, the Vermont Senate passed S.227 and sent the bill to the House for consideration. S.227 has been amended and now includes a new requirement that Legislative Counsel develop a bill that would mandate Extended Producer Responsibility, or EPR, for paper and packaging for consideration in 2021. The House was expected to pass the bill, as well.
Six bills—HB 5812, HB 5813, HB 5814, HB 5815, HB 5816, and HB 5817—were filed in the Michigan House in late May with the goal of encouraging better materials management by local solid waste programs. These bills are the culmination of a multi-year process that have led to the development of new benchmark recycling goals. The bills will set a recycling rate goal of 35% by 2025 and 45% following that. Additionally, local waste authorities would be required to provide access to recycling for at least 90% of the population in all areas of the state.
In June, the Statewide Commission on Recycling Markets and Curbside Recycling, which was created by AB 1583, met for the first time to discuss policy recommendations that will help California achieve it’s 75% recycling, composting, and source-reduction goal. The commission will identify products that are recyclable or compostable and regularly collected in curbside recycling programs.
Additionally, for over a year, the flexible packaging industry has been engaged in advocacy on SB 54/AB 1080 and on the ballot initiative—California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act of 2020. In June, it became clearer that the initiative seems destined for the November 2022 ballot—because of the negative impact of COVID-19 on signature collection.
The Recycling Steering Committee continued to meet on a weekly basis to identify what Oregon’s future recycling system should look like. Discussions have included labeling requirements, contamination reduction, and EPR. As a result, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is likely to propose 2021 legislation with a statewide list of accepted materials and an EPR requirement.
The Plastic Packaging Evaluation and Assessment law is due to be delivered to the state legislature late this year. Under the bill, the state Department of Ecology (DoE) commissioned an independent study of plastic packaging that will offer recommendations for reducing plastic packaging waste. As a result, there likely will be EPR legislation that is shaped by this study in 2021.
Additionally, in May the DoE announced—and then retracted—plans to sponsor a 2021 bill that would repeal the mandate that plastic packaging carry resin numbers with chasing arrows (70.95F RCW Labeling of Plastics). It has been discussed that the chasing arrows lead to recycling contamination. In retracting the proposal, DoE stated that it needed more information before moving forward with possible resin-labeling legislation.