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California Defines PET to Exclude PETG; Limits Labeling Under Resin Code 1


California Assembly Bill 906, signed into law on October 15, 2017, defines “polyethylene terephthalate” (PET) for purposes of resin code labeling as a plastic that meets certain conditions, including limits with respect to the chemical composition of the polymer and a melting peak temperature within a specified range. The ostensible purpose of the change is to exclude rigid plastic bottles and containers made from polyethylene terephthalate glycol-modified (PETG) that are sold in California from using Resin Identification Code (RIC) 1. 

The legislative analysis of AB 906 states that, according to the author Rep. Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), the definition for PET in the legislation “will help ensure that PET and PETG, which have incompatible processing conditions, are not processed together in the Beverage Container Recycling Program.” Industry was split on the bill, with various recycling groups and the American Beverage Association in support and the Plastics Industry Association in opposition.

All rigid plastic bottles and containers sold in California must include a code indicating the type of resin used to produce it. The Resin Code for PET is “1” and “7” denotes “other.” (For background information, see the article, The California Rigid Plastic Packaging Container Law.)

The addition of glycol to PET makes it less brittle, regulating in a softer and more pliable exterior surface. The legislative analysis of AB 906 claims that PETG has a higher processing temperature than PET and this creates challenges for recycling.

AB 906 adds Section 18013 to California’s Public Resources Code, which reads, in part:

“Polyethylene terephthalate” means a plastic derived from a reaction between terephthalic acid or dimethyl terephthalate and monoethylene glycol as to which both of the following conditions are satisfied:

  1. The terephthalic acid or dimethyl terephthalate and monoethylene glycol reacted constitutes at least 90 percent of the mass of the monomer reacted to form the polymer.
  2. The plastic exhibits a melting peak temperature that is between 225 degrees Celsius and 255 degrees Celsius, as determined during the second thermal scan using procedure 10.1 as set forth in ASTM International (ASTM) D3418 with a heating rate of a sample at 10 degrees Celsius per minute.”

The law is effective as of October 1, 2018.