A commission appointed by California's legislature to look at recycling is making some potentially big recommendations around plastic packaging that it says are needed to help a system in "crisis."
The report from the Statewide Commission on Recycling Markets and Curbside Recycling, released in late December, makes five policy proposals around plastics, including creating an official statewide list of what is recyclable. For plastics that list would only allow PET and high density polyethylene bottles in curbside systems.
The detailed report, which covers much more than plastic, is expected by observers to be a guide for legislation. If parts of it become law, it would represent a more muscular and prescriptive approach from the state capital in Sacramento.
The policy recommendations include prohibiting plastic bags and film from carrying recyclability messaging, banning colored PET bottles because they lower the value of recyclables for cities and enacting tougher restrictions around labels and shrink sleeves on plastic bottles.
As well, it says California should urge Washington to formally join the Basel Convention, which enacted new rules Jan. 1 limiting global exports of waste plastics.
The five recommendations got a mixed response from plastics industry groups and companies, which argued that while some proposals could clean up contamination, they said limiting what's in curbside could hurt an industry effort launched last year to increase recycling of polypropylene packaging.
The commission, however, says its proposals are needed to make California's recycling programs less of a financial burden on local governments by reducing contamination from low-value or hard-to-recycle packaging materials. It said China's 2018 ban on recyclable scrap imports has made the situation worse.
"The state is facing a recycling crisis, with high rates of contamination of collected recycled materials," the commission said in a report delivered to state legislators Dec. 21. "Recycling operations are struggling to remain viable and more material is being landfilled instead of recycled. This is directly related to the closure of nearly 1,000 recycling centers in California since 2013."