With surveys showing the public thoroughly confused about what can and can't be recycled, California lawmakers aim to get much tougher around recyclability marketing claims for plastic packaging.
A bill that would sharply limit those claims, including when the chasing arrows symbol can be put on packaging, has passed the state Senate by a wide margin and is making its way through the Assembly, where it faces a Sept. 10 deadline to pass.
The group Californians Against Waste called it the "country's strongest protections against deceptive recyclability claims," and supporters said it would build up markets by creating cleaner recycling streams.
"This bill gets at misleading recycling symbols placed on products that don't actually indicate real recyclability," said state Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, the lead author.
Allen opened one recent hearing on the legislation by pointing to confusing chasing arrows messaging on plastic newspaper bags, which can contaminate recycling streams if they're mistakenly put in curbside bins.
But Allen's proposal is drawing opposition from plastics groups, who say they recognize public confusion but also fear one provision will unintentionally hurt their plans to build up viable recycling streams for PET thermoforms and polypropylene packaging.
As well, another part of the bill that would directly impact plastics companies would limit the use of the chasing arrows symbol in the resin identification code on bottles and containers.
The legislation, called Senate Bill 343, is attracting significant attention.
Environmental groups have mounted phone banking, canvassing and social media campaigns to build support, and the Plastics Industry Association said Aug. 26 that its top state government specialist was in California for a week working on the bill.
"We anticipate a number of amendments in committee and on the floor, so the legislation is likely far from a finished product," said Shannon Crawford, director of state government affairs at the association, in a statement.
Nick Lapis, the director of advocacy at CAW, said there are talks about making reporting requirements for companies simpler, which he called a "reasonable compromise."
It passed the state Senate on a 31-6 vote in June.