CalRecycle staff propose mandatory statewide packaging program

By Michael Shaw

Capitol Update, Sept. 16, 2016 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

At the outset of the year CalRecycle convened a host of entities for a “Manufacturers Challenge” workshop with the goal of better understanding how manufacturers were working to address reductions in packaging material going to landfill.

While the staff of CalRecycle note packaging can provide many important benefits, such as protecting the products we purchase, to providing information to the consumer, to extending the shelf life of food to prevent food waste, they conveyed disappointment to CalRecycle Director Scott Smithline in a memo to be discussed at their next monthly public meeting on September 20th. Staff had requested participants share detailed feedback, data and proposals on how they are or intend to voluntarily help the state meet its 75 percent waste reduction goal under AB 341,Chapter 476, Statutes of 2011, (Wesley Chesbro, D-Eureka) by 2020. Instead, industry representatives focused their presentations on innovations for lighter-weight, more sophisticated packaging materials and designs to help minimize waste and to reduce various lifecycle impacts. Despite these approaches, however, CalRecycle staff argues these packaging innovations have not sufficiently addressed the challenges traditional local government and private sector programs have with effectively collecting and processing these materials that they peg at 8 million tons of landfill annually in the state.

In a memo to Director Smithline, staff recommends the Director approve the following:

  • Development of a mandatory statewide packaging program that would include definitions, scope, goals, metrics, stakeholder roles and responsibilities, program financing, and oversight; and
  • Further exploration of the complementary, individual voluntary activities presented at the Manufacturers Challenge workshop to determine potential to significantly decrease packaging disposal in California.

With regard to the packaging program, staff is clear CalRecycle does not currently have the authority to implement such a program. Rather, the packaging program that would be developed would be intended to serve as a tool for policy makers to consider with specific approaches to be further explored including an extended producer responsibility (EPR) framework; a ban on landfill of recycled materials; and minimum recycled content requirements. 

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