California Gov. Gavin Newsom has vetoed tough new recycled content legislation for plastic bottles, saying he supported the goals but opposed last-minute changes designed to mollify the beverage industry.
The bill, which passed the state Legislature Sept. 14, would have created the world's toughest legal mandate for recycled content in plastic bottles — up to 50 percent by 2030.
But Newsom said in his Oct. 12 veto that he felt the last-minute changes shifted too much responsibility away from companies.
"While I support strong minimum recycled content standards, late amendments to this bill would result in a costly, burdensome process that undermines the worthy intent of this legislation," Newsom wrote.
"The waiver petitions allowed under this bill would put the burden on the state to prove to manufacturers that their products can meet recycling goals, rather than making clear that manufacturers have the responsibility to create products that can meet those goals," Newsom wrote.
It's not clear what happens next. The Legislature returns to session in January, when bills can be reconsidered.
The legislation, Assembly Bill 792, passed by wide margins on the last day of the 2019 session, Sept. 14, after changes were made to address concerns from the American Beverage Association, which represents Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc. and other large beverage makers.
Those changes inserted potentially significant "off ramps" into the legislation, allowing companies to petition a state agency to grant a waiver from the recycled content standards if companies felt it was not possible to meet them.
The ABA removed its formal opposition to the bill after those changes, saying they made the law more "realistically attainable."
It's the second major piece of plastic waste legislation to die late in California's legislative session this year.
The Association of Plastic Recyclers suggested the veto of this bottle recycled content law may be linked to the other legislation, known as Senate Bill 54. That second bill would have required packaging to have a 75 percent recycling rate by 2030 to be sold in the state.
"We are very disappointed with the decision to veto the [recycled content] bill," said Steve Alexander, APR president and CEO. "We have heard that some parties engaged in this discussion were concerned that enactment of this bill would somehow have impacted the effort to pass SB 54 which is due to come up again next year."
"APR is committed to do all we can to continue to support the growth and expansion of plastic recycling, including minimum content requirements and other policies that will strengthen markets for all recycled materials," Alexander said.
One of the main authors of the legislation, Assemblymember Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, wrote on Twitter Oct. 13 that he will continue to work on the bill because it tells recycling markets that California is willing to take major action on plastic waste.
"I'm disappointed that the Governor vetoed AB 792," he said. "Setting the world's highest minimum recycled content standards for plastic beverage containers would have sent signals to the recycling market that California is serious about reducing plastic waste."
He said recycled content standards would have helped ensure that plastic waste gets recycled domestically, rather than being shipped overseas.
Ting's bill requiring 50 percent recycled content would have exceeded the 30 percent by 2030 level in the European Union.
Newsom said he wants to see recycled content standards be included in ongoing efforts to fix the state's container deposit law.
"As we work together on next steps to evolve the California Beverage Container Recycling Program to meet the realities of recycling today, minimum recycled content standards should be established to support markets and expand remanufacturing," Newsom wrote. "However, they must be established in a meaningful way that ensures the standards can be achieved."