I’m a bit of a policy nerd, which is unusual for an engineer. But I love reading about environmental policies and understanding the way science and the public can eventually influence policy that affects large swaths of communities.
One piece of legislation I’ve been really excited about is SB 1335. Back in 2018, California passed a law (SB 1335) requiring disposable food service packaging items at certain California state facilities to be reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2021. The reason this is very, very important: California will essentially be defining what makes a plastic recyclable, reusable, or compostable, and that’s bound to make a subset of plastic manufacturers, composters, and recyclers very unhappy.
The time has now arrived to craft the rule, which CalRecycle is doing. They’ve submitted drafts of the rule and it is now on its way to be approved. So what is CalRecycle defining as reusable, recyclable and compostable?
Reusable: The material must be able to be reused after 780 cycles in a cleaning and sanitizing process.
Recyclable: The material is collected by at least 75% of recycling programs statewide, have sufficient commercial value to be marketed for recycling, and is sorted and .
Compostable: The material is regularly collected for composting by at least 50% of organic waste recycling programs statewide and 50% of the compost facilities that accept mixed materials.
There are other provisions in the rule, such as allowing for takeback programs, which seem like they can help facilities that have a singular relationship with a composter or recycler who can actually process their items. Other provisions include PFAS bans as well, and more stringent floors after 2026.
So who is not happy with this rule? Some of them are below:
On my end, I’m curious where the 780 cycles for reusable came from, and will be interested in seeing how compostable plastics shake out with these new definitions. Although it’s a rule that affects only a subset of facilities, it’s the first of its kind in California and will likely affect bigger pieces of legislation (like single use plastic bans, etc) in the future.