California's legislature passed a bill Aug. 30 mandating up to 30 percent recycled content for thermoformed plastic packaging such as berry containers, but some industry groups say the plans won't work and they want Gov. Gavin Newsom to veto it.
Supporters of the legislation say it's needed to jump start weak markets for PET thermoformed packaging by requiring recycled materials to be used in the containers. Mandates would start in 2025, with 10 percent recycled content.
Some companies and industry groups, however, say the legislation puts the cart before the horse and that the bigger challenge is collection of thermoformed containers, not demand for recycled materials.
They say the fate of recycled thermoforms is tied into the state's complicated bottle bill payment structure, which they argue creates disincentives for local material recovery facilities to separate out thermoformed PET.
"The way the structure is set up there is no way for this bill to work," said Steve Alexander, president and CEO of the Association of Plastic Recyclers. "Unless there is incentive for thermoforms to be separated by the MRFs [material recycing facilities], there is no way to access the material for recyclers to have the ability to recycle it."
He said APR is urging Newsom to veto the legislation, Assembly Bill 2784.
But Californians Against Waste, one of the main backers of the legislation, said recycled content mandates will boost demand and create incentives for curbside recycling programs to start separating thermoformed PET.
CAW Executive Director Mark Murray said industry needs to provide financial incentives or other scrap value for thermoforms to support more curbside collection.
"The recycled content standards in AB 2784 offer the best — maybe the only — way to jump start this cycle," Murray said. "The manufacturers of thermoform plastic packaging and the food companies that use it must recognize that they face a limited window to demonstrate closed loop recyclability or this packaging will be phased out of the marketplace."