Calif. laws expected to boost plastics recycling

Published: October 7, 2011 6:00 am ET

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Topics Materials, Public Policy, Suppliers, Sustainability, Packaging, Recycling

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. (Oct. 7, 12:45 p.m. ET) — Two recycling bills signed into law by California Gov. Jerry Brown are expected to boost the amount of material collected and recycled, and bolster the plastics recycling infrastructure in the state.

Brown signed into law Oct. 6 Assembly Bill 149, which will continue the state’s annual plastic market development incentives of $10 million to $20 million to processors and manufacturers of recycled plastics through Jan 1, 2017. The incentives would have expired in January without the bill’s passage.

In addition, Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 341, which sets a goal of source reducing, recycling, or composting 75 percent of waste in the state by 2012. Equally as important, it requires virtually every commercial business, institution and apartment building in the state to implement recycling programs.

That’s significant because while California today diverts 58 percent of its waste, its large office buildings only divert 7 percent of their waste, and smaller businesses less than that. AB 341 requires that all commercial or public entities that generate more than four cubic yards of commercial solid waste per week offer or arrange for recycling services, on and after July 1, 2012.

The law also applies to multifamily residential dwelling of five units or more.

The plastic recycling market development incentives — which began in 2000 — are credited with developing the plastics recycling infrastructure in California. The current bill, AB 1149, hopes to take that one step further in an effort to keep more bottles in California instead of being shipped to China.

Californians annually collect about 500 million pounds of plastic beverage containers for recycling. Historically more than 80 percent have been shipped overseas for reprocessing.

Among other things, AB 1149 authorizes CalRecycle — the former California Integrated Waste Management Board — to reinvest up to 50 percent of the savings from an anticipated drop in PET processing fee offsets back into plastic market development payments.

In addition, it authorizes CalRecycle to issue up to $20 million in grants annually for plastic recycling market development and expansion-related activities.

“California has been the banana republic to China,” said Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, a non-profit environmental group in Sacramento that advocates waste reduction and recycling policies and programs. “We dutifully clean up and collect billions of used soda and water bottles and ship them off to China at a loss. They add labor and value [by] processing them into the polyester clothing and accessories that they sell back to us at Target and Banana Republic.”

“When we ship used soda and water bottles to China, we are exporting thousands of jobs overseas that could just as readily exist in California if the appropriate investments were set up to support it,” said Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, who co-sponsored the market-incentive bill and chairs the Assembly Budget Subcommittee that oversees all natural resource agencies in the state. “AB 1149 builds on the success of the plastic market development program and will create and support thousands of jobs while helping our environment.”

Murray said today the plastic market program in California directly supports more than 750 jobs. But the state is collecting enough plastic to support 4-5 times as many jobs.

“AB 1149 creates the incentives and the potential for hundreds, if not thousands of new jobs,” Murray said. “Recycling is a proven job creator.”

He said the mandated apartment and commercial establishment recycling bill, AB 341, “targets the 15 million tons of recyclables that the commercial sector and apartments still send to landfills every year. By collecting, processing and manufacturing these materials into new products, AB 341 has the potential to create a net total of nearly 60,000 jobs.”

“California’s commitment to recycling has created 125,000 new jobs over the past two decades,” added Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro, D-North Coast, who sponsored the apartment and business recycling bill. “The [recycling] industry generates $4 billion a year in salaries and produces $10 billion worth of goods and services annually. California’s commitment to recycling has created 125,000 new jobs over the past two decades.”


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Calif. laws expected to boost plastics recycling

Published: October 7, 2011 6:00 am ET

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