California's Senate voted Jan. 29 to require state regulators come up with new minimum recycled content standards for beverage containers, and to study an extended producer responsibility (EPR) system that could replace the state's container deposit law.
The measure passed by a wide margin, 28-6, with bipartisan support, but it's a watered-down version of legislation the Senate considered last year that would have imposed tougher EPR requirements.
The current bill requires the state agency CalRecycle to develop the recycled content standards by January 2023, and to report by January 2020 on an EPR or other system for containers.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), called it a "big step forward" because it would provide environmental and economic benefits to strengthen recycling markets, and look at comprehensive ways to improve the state's bottle bill.
"The economic benefit is creating markets right here in California," he said. "The overseas markets, particularly in China, are now closed to many of the recycled materials we used to ship over there."
The environmental group Californians Against Waste praised the bill, saying the state needs a "new generation of policies" that require more recycled content. A statement from Wieckowski said the state's 30-year-old bottle bill has not created strong in-state markets for recycled materials.
The legislation came out of a series of reports and hearings convened by executive agencies and the Senate. The bill now goes to the state Assembly.
A legislative analysis of the bill noted that California's container deposit system has faced a structural deficit of about $75 million in recent years, and legislators noted that some community recycling centers have been forced to close.
That analysis said a more efficient system or an industry-run product stewardship program could provide a fiscal benefit to the state.