Numerous waste and recycling bills are still in play in California after passing the legislative crossover deadline on Friday. It’s a significant date when bills must pass out of their chamber of origin to proceed through the rest of the legislative session, which ends Sept. 14.
Though lawmakers aren’t mulling bills as beefy as last year’s sweeping SB 54, a paper and plastic packaging EPR bill with ambitious recycling and reduction rate targets, industry players say it’s still shaping up to be an eventful year. Here’s a look at some bill highlights, plus a few that did not make the cut.
SB 353: Bottle bill expansion and recycling center payment adjustment
The bill expands the state bottle bill to include any size of 100% fruit juice and any size vegetable juice starting in January 2024. It also aims to update the payment formula that funds recycling centers, allowing CalRecycle to use either 3-month or 12-month average scrap material values when it calculates quarterly payments to recycling centers.
Allowing CalRecycle flexibility to calculate more beneficial payments to recycling centers will help prevent more centers from closing, especially during times when scrap prices are particularly volatile, supporters like Californians Against Waste said. The current processing payment structure reacts slowly to the market, with adjustments based on the prior 12-month averaged scrap value with a 3-month lag, according to a Senate bill analysis.
Other provisions in the bill would delay the new fruit and vegetable juice containers from having to comply with the bottle bill’s minimum postconsumer recycled plastic content requirements until 2026.
State Sen. Bill Dodd, a sponsor, said the bill is meant to be a “financial lifeline to recycling centers and processors.” CAW sees the bill as a way to raise recycling rates and “increase crucial funding for beverage container recycling infrastructure.” Other supporters include Republic Services, EDCO, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries West Coast Chapter, several local recycling centers and environmental groups like Sierra Club California. The bill as of last report faced little recorded opposition, according to the bill analysis.
SB 244: Right to repair
The bill would require manufacturers of consumer electronics and some appliances to provide replacement parts, diagnostic information, and service manuals to consumers and third-party repair businesses. It also imposes fines on manufacturers that don’t comply. Californians Against Waste, CalPIRG and iFixIt co-sponsor the bill.
Right to repair bills have gained national attention in recent years, with both President Joe Biden and state attorneys generals advocating for such legislation. Dan Salsburg, a Federal Trade Commission official, testified in April during a committee hearing on California’s bill, reiterating the agency’s position that consumers and independent repair shops should have “appropriate access to replacement parts, instructions, and diagnostic software.”
If passed, California’s law would follow similar versions that passed in May in Minnesota and last year in New York. Right to repair advocates say consumers should be able to go to third-party companies to repair their devices or have access to ways they can fix the items themselves. “When only the manufacturer or their ‘authorized technician’ can fix something, they can charge whatever they want or claim that it can’t be fixed, to push consumers into buying new devices, leading to more waste,” co-sponsors wrote in a bill analysis.
Other supporters include the National Stewardship Action Council, local electronics recyclers and repair shops, and Zero Waste USA.
Yet a coalition of associations representing businesses and manufacturers, including the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, California Chamber of Commerce, Consumer Technology Association and TechNet, said the bill would leave equipment manufacturers without “contractual protections, requirements, or restrictions.” The bill would put consumers and data at risk and would not offer protections for intellectual property, they said in the bill analysis.
SB 615: EPR for EV batteries
The bill calls for a manufacturer-funded collection and recycling system for electric vehicle batteries at their end of life. The bill would require manufacturers to find ways to recover, reuse, repurpose, remanufacture or recycle such batteries. Battery suppliers would also need to develop a “core exchange” program for replacing a battery or battery part by Jan. 1, 2025, and batteries would need to be tracked to prevent being “orphaned” or “stranded” without being properly managed.
According to a state Senate bill analysis, the bill is still undergoing a stakeholder process and key details of how the EPR process would work or how to track or prioritize batteries for reuse versus recycling is still being hammered out.
Supporters such as Californians Against Waste said a more formalized EV battery management program is needed as the state is considering phasing out the sale of non-electric vehicles by 2035. Other supporters include battery recycler Redwood Materials and the Climate Reality Project. So far, the Senate has not recorded any opposition to the bill. If passed, it would follow California’s other recent battery EPR law that passed last year, which applies to most batteries but not EVs.
SB 751: Hauler franchise agreements and labor disputes
The bill would prohibit a city or county from entering into or amending a solid waste hauling agreement if a labor dispute would excuse the hauler from performing its duties. The hauler would need to provide advance notice of service disruptions and allow customers to file a complaint or receive refunds or credits if they do not receive services. This would take effect Jan. 1, 2024.
State Sen. Steve Padilla, the bill’s sponsor, said this was prompted by a 2021 labor dispute between Teamsters Local 542 and Republic Services in Chula Vista. Republic Services halted some waste collection because the franchise agreement included a force majeure provision that covered work stoppages, according to a bill analysis. Padilla said local agencies might not know that waste companies can use force majeure during a labor dispute, which could harm workers who are on strike due to public outcry over service disruptions. California Teamsters Public Affairs Council and the League of California Cities support the bill.
WM, Waste Connections and three state trade groups oppose the bill, saying it does not provide enough flexibility and could raise costs both for local agencies and for customers.
SB 707: EPR for textiles
The bill would require producers of apparel, and some other textile products like bed sheets and curtains, to establish a stewardship program for collecting and recycling the material at end of life. Carpet and mattresses already have their own EPR programs in the state. Producers would need to form a producer responsibility organization and pay fees to CalRecycle for managing the program. CalRecycle would need to set regulations for establishing the EPR program by Dec. 31, 2025. About 95% of textile waste in the state is reusable or recyclable, and the bill is meant to reduce the amount of textile waste shipped overseas, landfilled or otherwise not recycled or reused, according to a Senate bill analysis. Supporters include Republic Services, NSAC, Californians Against Waste and a coalition of environmental groups, cities and zero waste groups. As of the bill’s passage in the Senate, it had no recorded opposition.
AB 660: Date labeling on products
The bill would require food manufacturers to use uniform terms when labeling their products with dates for "safety" or "quality.” It would also ban the use of “sell by” dates on food item packaging. Food date labeling isn’t standardized, and bill sponsor Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin says the legislation would help reduce food waste by cutting down on consumer confusion over food freshness. The Consumer Brands Association, as well as some egg farmers, voiced concerns that the bill could harm smaller brands. The City of San Francisco, plus a list of environmental groups, support the bill.
Other bills moving forward this year
- AB 1347: “Skip the Slip.” The bill would require some businesses to provide customers the choice between paper, digital or no receipt in an effort to reduce waste. It prohibits the use of certain chemicals in receipts.
- AB 1526: Adding aerosol paint to EPR. The bill adds aerosol paint to the state’s paint extended producer responsibility program. It also cleans up technical errors in SB 54, a sweeping EPR for packaging law passed last year.
- AB 2: Solar panel EPR. The bill would create an extended producer responsibility program for solar photovoltaic panels sold in the state, with companies required to submit plans starting July 1, 2026.
Bills that won’t move forward this year
- AB 1290: Eliminating “problematic plastics.” This bill, now labeled inactive, would have aimed to prohibit the use of what bill sponsors said are “problematic” plastics that could contaminate recycling or could cause health problems. It listed PVC, PVDC, PET-G, pigmented PET packaging, plus some products with added PFAS, carbon black, or oxo-degradable additives.
- AB 1705: Moratorium on incinerators. This two-year bill wasn’t brought up for a vote in committee before the necessary deadline, but it could be reconsidered next year. The bill would have put a moratorium on building or expanding incinerators until certain recycling and organic waste goals have been met for three years.
- AB 1534: Remote sensing for landfill methane emissions. This bill died in committee. It would have required the California Air Resources Board to add certain remote sensing technologies, such as satellites, drones, or airplane flyovers, into landfill regulations. Bill sponsors, including Republic, said the technology could help remediate methane emissions more quickly and efficiently.