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States And Federal Government Continue To Advance Plastics Recycling And Minimum Recycled Content Mandates


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What is happening? Connecticut has joined
several other states in imposing plastic recycling mandates on
manufacturers. These laws seek to improve the market for
recyclables by establishing recycled content minimums for plastic
products, establishing extended producer responsibility (EPR)
programs, and examining ways to improve recycling
infrastructure.

Who is impacted? Manufacturers that use
plastics and retailers that sell plastic products in states that
have already passed legislation, or proposed legislation
establishing recycled content minimums, EPR programs, or
improvements to recycling infrastructure.

What should stakeholders do? Stakeholders
should closely monitor current and pending state plastics
legislation and prepare for any upcoming public notice-and-comment
periods.

Connecticut has joined other states in passing
legislation to boost plastic recycling and recycling
infrastructure. CT SB928 – “An Act Concerning Recycled
Content for Products Sold in Connecticut” – was signed into
law by Governor Lamont on June 14, 2021. The bill requires the
Connecticut Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection to
develop recycled content requirements for “products sold in
the state” by December 1, 2022. Although the bill is only 11
lines long, it is likely to have a far-reaching impact.
“Retailers, manufacturers, recycling businesses in the state
and regional organizations such as the Northeast Recycling
Council,” are called upon to consult with the Commissioner and
offer recommendations. The recommendations are due January 1,
2022.

In May 2021, Washington enacted a sweeping new
minimum recycled content bill, SB5022, which creates recycled content
minimums for some plastic products sold in Washington State, bans
the sale and distribution of certain types of plastic. The bill
also bans expanded polystyrene (EPS) and limits how the food
service industry can provide consumers with single-use plastic
products such as eating utensils and straws. Additionally, the bill
imposes reporting and registration requirements for manufacturers
of certain plastic products. Governor Inslee signed this bill on
May 17, 2021.

In Maine, the EPR bill (LD 1541) has passed the state legislature on
June 18, 2021, and is awaiting the governor’s signature. The
bill establishes a packaging stewardship organization that would,
among other functions, reimburse participating municipalities for
the per ton cost of managing “packaging material that is
readily recyclable.” The Maine Department of Environmental
Protection would set the fee per ton of packaging material.

Maryland enacted legislation on May 19, 2021 that
requires the Department of the Environment to examine ways to
improve the state’s recycling market. The Department is also
tasked with identifying the materials making up the largest portion
of the waste stream, materials in need of recycling assistance (and
corresponding marketing opportunities), methods to collect and
process recycling, businesses that use recycled materials
(including opportunities for businesses to increase use of recycled
materials). The Department will make its initial recommendations on
how to improve markets for recyclables by September 2022.

California has proposed legislation, AB 478, that would require thermoform plastic
containers (non-rigid clamshells, tubs, trays, and egg cartons used
to store produce, nuts, baked goods, and deli items) to contain at
least 30% post-consumer recycled plastic by 2030. The bill passed
the Assembly and is in the CA Senate. And New York
introduced legislation, which did not pass, that would have
required packaging producers to meet minimum post-consumer recycled
content rates and recycling rates based on material type, but given
brands flexibility in how to meet those goals. Although New
York’s bill is dead, its authors Sen. Todd Kaminsky and Assemblyman Steve Englebright have both
prioritized environmental issues during their terms, including
waste reduction.

Plastics pollution has also been the subject of several bills at
the national level. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rep. Alan
Lowenthal (D-CA) reintroduced the Break Free from Plastic Pollution
Act (S.984 and H.R.2238). The reintroduced act proposes a
recycled content minimum for plastic beverage containers of 50
percent. Additionally, the U.S. House introduced the “Climate
Leadership and Environmental Action for Our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act.” The bill would also
require minimum recycled content for plastic beverage containers
and require EPA to conduct an annual assessment of plastic waste.
Currently, the bills have not passed in either the Senate or
House.

Manufacturers and retailers face a growing patchwork of
legislation, proposed and enacted, that will affect plastic
recycling, recyclability, and recycled content mandates, as more
states look to reduce plastic waste without waiting for
Congress.

Originally published June 30, 2021

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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