SACRAMENTO, CALIF. — California Governor Gavin Newsom signed two bills into law on Oct. 5, both addressing plastic packaging waste. This adds to the governor’s $270 million plan to improve recycling infrastructure and create a more circular economy within the state’s $15 billion climate package.

One of the bills, Senate Bill No. 343 (SB 343), requires products to meet more stringent benchmarks in order to advertise the familiar recyclable symbol — the green chasing-arrows icon — on their packages and labels.

“California’s hallmark is solving problems through innovation, and we’re harnessing that spirit to reduce the waste filling our landfills and generating harmful pollutants driving the climate crisis,” Newsom said. “With today’s action and bold investments to transform our recycling systems, the state continues to lead the way to a more sustainable and resilient future for the planet and all our communities.”

SB 343 requires the Department of Resources and Recycling Recovery to come up with a study determining what kinds of products and packaging are recyclable in California on or before Jan. 1, 2024. Only products and packaging materials considered recyclable by the state — defined as of material type and form able to be collected for recycling in jurisdictions that serve at least 60% of the state’s population, among other things — will pass the scrutiny test of this new bill.

It also enacted an amendment to the Business and Professions Code, which stated products marketed as “ecologically friendly,” “earth friendly,” “environmentally friendly,” and other such terms, as well as brands using the chasing-arrows symbol encouraging recyclability, must maintain written records of:

  • Reasons why those statements are truthful
  • Records of any “significant adverse environmental impacts” associated with the product, distribution, use or disposal
  • Measures taken by the company to address those adverse impacts
  • Violations of relevant federal, state or local permits
  • Compliance with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Guidelines for Environmental Marketing Claims (including “recycled,” “recyclable,” “biodegradable,” “photodegradable,” or “ozone friendly”)
  • Whether the product meets statewide recyclability criteria

All this information would need to be made available to the public if requested.

Additionally, the Business and Professions Code now states, “It is unlawful for a person to make an untruthful, deceptive, or misleading environmental marketing claim, whether explicit or implied,” which includes claims listed in the FTC Guidelines for Environmental Marketing Claims. The bill also made it illegal for people or brands to sell, distribute or import any products with deceptive or misleading marketing claims about materials used or recyclability.

“With these new laws, California will require companies to be honest about their products so that consumers know what they’re purchasing,” noted Nick Lapis, director of advocacy for Californians Against Waste. “It shouldn’t be a difficult concept: if it says ‘recyclable,’ that means we should be able to put it in the recycling bin; if it says ‘compostable,’ we should be able to put it in the composting bin; if it’s going to be exported to a country where its fate is unknown, we shouldn’t count it as ‘recycled’ for state reports; if we want to have an option to turn down non-recyclable products, we should be able to do so.”

The Associated Press reported this bill package “sets the nation’s strictest standards for which items can display the ‘chasing arrows’ recycling symbol.” It also detailed opposing opinions expressing the bill to be so restrictive that it could end up sending more items to landfills, AP reported.

Read more about packaging solutions and trends for pet food and treats.