With many changes taking place in the world of Extended Producer Responsibility since the New Year, the State of California continues to strive towards the minimisation of plastic pollution. With this goal in mind, the long-anticipated Senate Bill 54 or the Plastic Pollution and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act as it is more commonly known has begun its implementation. This bill was made available in December of last year and aims to create an extended producer responsibility (EPR) program for all packaging including a higher rate of reduction of single-use disposable packaging and disposable food service ware products. The implementation of this bill is set to enter into force from the 1st of January 2027, with producers now needing and being able to officially join an approved Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO).
Helping to pave the way in the continued successful enactment and requirements stipulated in this bill, CalRecycle has approved the Circular Action Alliance (CAA) as the first official producer responsibility organisation. Producers can now begin to join the CAA to fulfil their EPR obligations as set out in the bill under this producer responsibility organisation. These PROs can be joined either as a participant producer or as an independent producer. If a producer wishes to fulfil their obligation themselves, then they can do so through applying to becoming an independent producer. Any entity that becomes a producer after the 1st of January 2027, must within six months of becoming a producer, join an approved PRO or become an independent producer by this deadline.
To join a PRO, the producers in question will need to register with the Department using their name, email address and primary business address. If a producer does not wish to register with a PRO, then they will within six months need to prepare and submit a producer responsibility plan of their own. This plan is expected to be submitted by the PRO by mid-2026. The SB54 details a list of what is expected to be included but is not limited to an explanation of how they will implement this plan as well as a specification of the covered materials.
Upon joining the CAA, producers will eventually be required to pay fees from 2027. Currently CalRecycle has not yet refined the date by which producers will be able to start this process of paying fees to the PRO, but this may change as this bill gains further traction.
As well as needing to pay fees from 2027, producers will eventually need to report their data. While the CAA has not yet stipulated a date for which producers are required to submit their data, according to the official legislation, the annual reports for 2027 will cover the total amount of plastic-covered material by weight as well as the number of plastic components produced in California in the 2023 calendar year. In line with this bill, producers should keep in mind the need for well-maintained records as producers can be stung with accumulating penalties if they cannot prove their compliance in line with the bill.
As well as joining a PRO and keeping records, SB54 aims to facilitate producers in ensuring that packaging is recyclable as well as compostable. In working towards this goal, this bill requires that from the 1st of January 2028, all plastic packaging within California will be recyclable by at least 30%, 40% by the 1st of January 2030, and 65% by the 1st of January 2032.
To help producers navigate what materials are a part of this program, CalRecycle has established a list of material categories that are covered by SB 54 with the following covered materials being considered:
Alongside setting up a list of covered materials, this bill also places exemptions on various products. These exemptions apply to medical devices, prescription drugs, drugs (used for animal medicines), plastic packaging (used to contain or transport dangerous goods or materials), and beverage containers.
This bill will continue to gain momentum with a list of recyclable materials being republished next year in California, with a review of the PRO plans to take place from 2025 and a publication of the covered materials recycling rates. This anticipated bill promises much in terms of its extended producer responsibilities and recyclability obligations and is off to a grand start in delivering them.
The rate that regulations for extended producer responsibility advances can be frustrating for businesses looking to avoid the pitfalls of non-compliance from various new laws. Luckily, Ecoveritas can and will continue to untangle new legislations, keep track of and interpret EPR regulations, along with other environmental laws that impact packaging, waste electricals and electronics and wider sectors. Our exclusive Global EPR Matrix offers a unique view into environmental packaging, electricals and battery laws that should educate you about your business’s obligations in this ever-changing world of EPR.
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