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New Laws in California Target Plastic Pollution and Recycling

new recycling laws

Six new laws and a big win for the zero-waste movement and our planet

Let’s go California! Governor Newsom recently signed six new laws to help reduce our dependence on single-use plastic, reduce the use of misleading recycling and composting labels, protect the public from harmful chemicals, and support reuse!

1. Stronger single-use-plastic-upon-request law

AB 1276 by Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles) – This new law expands California’s plastic-straws-upon-request law to include single-use utensils and other foodware like condiment packets to be given to customers only if they ask for them. The goal is to end the practice of automatically including plastic throwaways in takeout orders that usually get tossed when a customer gets home. This passed thanks to the impressive efforts of Reusable LA and Upstream Solutions and their #SkipTheStuff campaign.

2. Products labeled as recyclable must actually be recyclable

SB 343 by Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) – Many plastic products currently bear a recycling symbol even though recycling facilities will not accept them. As a result, people “wishcycle” by  tossing these plastics into the recycling bin, but they often end up in landfills because recycling markets can’t be found. This new law prohibits manufacturers from putting a chasing-arrow symbol on a product if that product can’t actually be recycled.

3. Products labeled as compostable must actually be compostable

AB 1201 by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) – This new law ensures that products labeled as compostable actually break down in real-life composting conditions, and bans PFAS chemicals from food packaging to keep harmful chemicals out of the compost stream and our bodies. This transfers the responsibility to the manufacturer to ensure that their products don’t contaminate compost.

4. Certain chemicals have to be disclosed on packaging

AB 1200 by Assemblymember Philip Ting (D-San Francisco) – This new law prohibits disposable food packaging from containing PFAS chemicals and requires manufacturers to disclose toxic chemicals on product labels and online. This applies to recyclable and compostable food packaging as well. PFAS are commonly added to food wrappers and takeout containers to prevent grease and other liquids from leaking through.

5. Exports have to be truly recycled to count

AB 881 by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) – Plastic waste generated in the U.S. and intended for recycling is often shipped overseas and either landfilled, incinerated or illegally dumped. This law ensures that only exports of truly recycled plastics count toward the state’s waste-reduction and recycling law requiring 50% of waste to be diverted from landfills.

6. Easier for companies to invest in reusables

AB 962 by Senator Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles) – This new law makes it easier for beverage companies to create a reusable glass bottle system for customers. “By reducing plastic pollution at the source and increasing the share of refillable beverage bottles in the marketplace, California is taking an important step away from the economy’s throwaway culture that pollutes our planet and toward a more sustainable way of living,” —Ashley Blacow-Draeger, Oceana.

This is a big step California. Who’s next?