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California Begins Formal Rulemaking on Plastic Pollution Producer Responsibility Act

California State House

The California Department of Resources and Recovery (CalRecycle) has begun formal rulemaking activities related to regulations under the SB 54 Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act.

SB 54, which was signed into law in June 2022, required producers of covered single-use packaging, unless exempted, and single-use food service ware to form and join a Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) by January 1, 2024. CalRecycle announced the approval of the first PRO for implementation of SB 54 in January 2024 (more details on that announcement can be found here.)

The extended producer responsibility (EPR) law requires PROs to develop and implement a plan to achieve a 25% reduction by weight and 25% reduction by plastic components for covered materials by January 2032. The law also requires plastics covered products to meet the following recycling rates: 30% by January 2028, 40% by January 2030, and 50% by January 2032. Additionally, it bans expanded polystyrene (EPS) food service ware unless it meets specified recycling rates, and it prohibits the sale or distribution of covered materials manufactured after January 2023, unless they are recyclable or compostable.

Concerning the definition of compostable products, California law specifies that, as of January 1, 2026, products may not be labeled as compostable or home compostable in the state unless, among other things, they are “an allowable agricultural organic input under the requirements of the United States Department of Agriculture National Organic Program [NOP].” (See California Public Resources Code, Section 42357(g)(1)(b).)

A Notice of Proposed Action on SB 54 (accessible from CalRecycle’s website) was published on March 8, 2024. In the Notice, CalRecycle points out, “The broad objective of the proposed regulations is to implement the Act to ensure that it achieves its goals: source reduction of plastic covered materials, elimination of covered materials that is not recyclable or compostable, and significant improvements in recycling rates for covered materials.”

Public comments related to SB 54 regulations are due by April 23, 2024, and CalRecycle will hold a public hearing on the rulemaking on April 23, 2024. More information can be found on the SB 54 regulations rulemaking webpage.