PLASTICS Testifies Against California Labeling Bill That Would Set Back Recycling

June 23, 2021

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning Madame Chair and members of the committee, my name is Shannon Crawford, and I am with the Plastics Industry Association. We represent the entire supply chain for plastics manufacturing in the United States which includes over 61,000 workers in California. Sustainability is a primary focus of our members and our association. Our members are intent on producing more recyclable materials and creating end markets so that less material will go to landfills. I am testifying to express our concerns with SB 343 because, as written, it will result in extensive negative environmental outcomes. Although unintended, it will result in less recycling and more materials going to landfill.

This legislation has started an important conversation on the resin identification code or the RIC. The current standard dictates this code should be placed inside a triangle and displayed inconspicuously on bottles and rigid plastic containers. Unfortunately, 30 states still require the code be placed inside three chasing arrows, creating significant consumer confusion. PLASTICS is committed to working with these 30 states to follow California’s lead and update these codes. We sincerely appreciate the author’s amendment which allows our members additional time to comply and update their molds.

Despite the progress on this particular amendment, we are still very concerned regarding the language of this legislation. While we certainly support efforts to reduce contamination in the recycling stream, we unfortunately cannot support SB 343. The criteria outlined in SB 343 to determine recyclability is severely restrictive. Using this criteria, only PET and HDPE bottles would be accepted as recyclable across the state. PET thermoforms, which package so much of California’s fresh produce would not be considered recyclable and neither would polypropylene which has material qualities making it the preferred resin for a variety of food and safety products. These resins have received millions of dollars of investment in recent years, yet they would be landfilled under this bill’s definitions. This committee recently passed AB 478 which requires recycled content in all plastic thermoforms, however this bill, SB 343, would deem those items non-recyclable and they would all be landfilled. Making the implementation of AB 478 impossible.

Not only would highly recyclable materials be labeled as non-recyclable, but there are no substitutes with the performance capabilities provided by these recyclable plastic materials. Alternatives cost more for small businesses (94% and more in some places), the environmental impacts of alternatives like paper packaging or metal are more resource-intensive and emit more carbon emissions, and there is a lacking infrastructure for popular alternatives like compostables.

Instead of imposing a severely restrictive labeling system, stakeholders should work together to advance a more modern recycling system that can capture and recycle more material. Real improvements in the system can only be achieved by an emphasis on developing end markets. Unfortunately, as written, this legislation would make it next to impossible to develop end markets for materials not designated recyclable on day one.

As written, SB 343 would result in more material in landfills and less recycling, however we look forward to working with Senator Allen and his staff on solutions to make this bill workable and helping improve not inhibit recycling. 

Shannon Crawford                                                              California State Assembly

Director, State Government Affairs                                      Natural Resources Committee

Plastics Industry Association