- California's Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) is preparing to enter a final rulemaking process this fall for a 2018 law (SB 1335) requiring disposable food service packaging items at certain California state facilities to be reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2021.
- CalRecycle will be required to maintain a list of acceptable food service packaging items — such as bowls, cups, plates, containers, wraps, and trays — starting in 2021.
- The standards and definitions CalRecycle puts in place may set a precedent for any other rules that come out of future recycling legislation. Examples include pending bills SB 54 and AB 1080, which aim to reduce and recycle single-use plastics in the state 75% by 2030.
SB 1335 covers food service establishments serving to, or located in, state agencies or other buildings. It will also affect packaging provided at concessionaires on state property.
The issues raised by this law are complex and will be addressed when rulemaking starts this fall. One of the most significant questions is how CalRecycle will determine the definitions of reusable, compostable, and recyclable packaging. Although the legislation lays out several minimum criteria CalRecycle must consider, they lack specificity.
For example, the legislation dictates recyclability should be determined based on how "regularly" the packaging is collected, separated, cleansed, sorted, processed, and recycled — as well as how "regularly" it is used in the production of new products and whether there is sufficient quantity and quality of the product to maintain "market value."
Informal rulemaking workshops that took place earlier this year have sought to provide some clarity on these issues.
According to draft language presented at the time, CalRecycle proposes using its new Recycling and Disposal Reporting System (RDRS) to introduce percentage thresholds for the number of recycling facilities sorting, baling, and sending a listed item to a recycling facility. The agency may also set verification criteria to ensure an item was actually recycled. Similarly, CalRecycle may introduce percentage thresholds — based on permitting information, marketing materials and other publicly available information — for the number of composting facilities that will accept a listed food service packaging item.
All of these items are likely elicit to feedback from food service packaging manufacturers, environmental and public health organizations, and food service facilities.
The agency "will be looking at various existing standards to determine their appropriateness for use in the SB 1335 regulations. New standards may need to be developed if suitable existing standards are not identified," CalRecycle Public Information Officer Sydney Fong told Waste Dive via email. According to Fong, "CalRecycle’s general approach is to make use of existing definitions whenever possible to ensure consistency, ease of compliance, and conformity within its programs."
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Sydney Fong's last name.