California reached a major recycling legislation milestone July 1, when the governor signed SB 54 into law, creating an extended producer responsibility program for packaging and setting ambitious recycling and reduction rate goals. However, the state could still pass other influential recycling and waste bills before its legislative session ends Aug. 31.
Here’s a quick look at what else is on California lawmakers’ waste and recycling to-do list:
|Bill Number||Highlights||Bill Status|
|AB 2026||Reduces the allowable amount of single-use plastics use in e-commerce packaging||Passed Assembly, in Senate appropriations committee|
|SB 1013||Expands container redemption program to include wine and distilled spirits||Passed Senate, in Assembly appropriations committee|
|SB 38||Exempts certain manufacturers involved in container redemption program from new state recycled content requirements||Passed Senate, in Assembly natural resources committee|
|AB 1857||Repeals provision of law that allows jurisdictions to count up to 10% of the waste sent to waste-to-energy facilities toward their 50% diversion requirement.||Passed Assembly, in Senate appropriations committee|
|AB 661||Updates the State Agency Buy Recycled Campaign with new recycled content standards for materials purchased by the state of California||Passed Assembly, in Senate appropriations committee|
AB 2026: Reducing single-use plastics in e-commerce
Led by Assembly member Laura Friedman, the bill calls for online retailers to reduce the use of plastic films, cushioning, expanded polystyrene foam and other plastic packaging materials from 2023 levels by Jan. 1, 2030. The current version of the bill does not give specific reduction percentages retailers must meet.
These types of plastic packaging and film make up more than 10% of residual waste from California MRFs, according to a Senate judiciary committee report, partly due to “wishcycling.” The bill’s provisions wouldn’t apply to certain types of packaging, such as that used to keep certain foods fresh or package medications.
Environmental groups Oceana, CALPIRG, and Environment California sponsored the bill, and other environmental groups support the legislation. Friedman said in a statement that the bill will encourage retailers to use sustainable packaging alternatives and curb pollution.
The EPS Industry Alliance, the American Chemistry Council and a coalition of retailers and businesses oppose the bill, saying it will contribute to more packages being damaged, returned or reshipped, putting more packaging in landfills and using more fuel for delivery.
SB 1013: Expanding the bottle bill to include wine and other alcoholic beverages
Introduced by state Sen. Toni Atkins, the bill would add wine and distilled spirits bottles to California’s container deposit system. California generates more than 500 million wine and spirits bottles, and less than 30% are recycled, she said in a bill report.
California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) estimates it could cost an extra $3.6 million each year to incorporate the new containers into the program, but it also anticipates estimated increased revenue “in the low hundreds of millions of dollars annually” if the bill passes due to new processing fees wine and spirits distributors would pay and more unredeemed deposits from consumers, according to the bill report.
The bill has received broad support from large haulers like Recology, Republic Services and WM as well as from environmental groups. So far, it faces no formal opposition.
SB 38: Exempting some beverage manufacturers from recycled content requirements
If passed, beverage manufacturers that are part of the state’s bottle bill and sell fewer than 22 million containers in California each year would not have to comply with new state recycled content requirements. The bill also prohibits processors from paying cash to certified recycling centers, curbside programs, and other bottle bill collection programs. And it calls for CalRecycle to study and develop a proposal for reducing contamination in recycled glass.
According to the bill analysis, this bill attempts to fix language in the current minimum content standard statute that might have inadvertently exempted all beverage manufacturers from the rule. That’s because exemption terms were set based on processing fees, which fluctuate with scrap values.
The Container Recycling Institute and several redemption centers support the bill, which currently faces no formal opposition.
AB 1857: Disallowing the counting of waste-to-energy as diversion
The bill repeals a part of state law allowing jurisdictions to count up to 10% of the waste sent to “transformation” facilities toward its 50% diversion requirement. It also calls for CalRecycle to create a Zero-Waste Equity grant program to prioritize projects that reduce reliance on incineration.
Supporters include local environmental and zero waste groups who say the bill is in line with circular economy goals and will reduce the health impacts incinerators have on fenceline communities. There are two incinerators in California: The one in Stanislaus County is owned and operated by Covanta; the one in Long Beach is publicly owned and operated by Covanta.
The bill aims to “make it clear that burning trash isn’t recycling …. Municipal waste incinerators are a reminder of how environmental racism can become normalized as a policy neutral solution when the story is always more complicated,” said Assembly member Cristina Garcia, the bill’s sponsor, in a statement.
Opponents include Covanta and several municipal groups. They say the bill would force waste meant for the incinerators into landfills, contributing to methane emissions. The League of California Cities calls the WTE facility in Long Beach “an environmentally responsible tool for waste management” responsible for producing 200,000 megawatt hours of electricity per year.
AB 661: Updating recycled content standards for state agency purchases
Under the current State Agency Buy Recycled Campaign, agencies must purchase certain types of recycled products whenever the recycled versions are available at the same or a lower total cost than alternative options. This bill would now require agencies to purchase such recycled products whenever they are available at no more than a 10% higher total cost.
The bill also lays out eligible products’ minimum recycled content and recyclability requirements. It requires CalRecycle to update the product list and recycling requirements every three years starting in 2026 as long as it considers market conditions, recycling rates and recycling or processing infrastructure capacity.
Supporters include several environmental groups and municipalities, who see the bill as a way for the state to drive demand for recycled products. Opponents, such as the American Chemistry Council and some state manufacturers, say the bill would make it difficult to find eligible products due to nationwide supply chain constraints and increased demand for recycled content products, and it could be impractical to find recycled alternatives to some products.