Four states in the United States have introduced laws mandating the use of PCR, while Canada and the European Union are making proposals

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As of early 2023, four US states have passed bills requiring the use of post-consumer plastics (PCR) in plastic packaging; Legislation is on the table in several other states. Across the globe, Canada and the European Union are also working on large-scale proposals.

As one of the most effective ways to reduce the environmental impact of packaging and tackle the growing problem of plastic pollution, the mandatory use of post-consumer plastics (PCR) in plastic packaging has been adopted by more and more countries and entered into the legislative process. Using PCR helps establish and stabilize circular markets, levels the playing field, and provides an environment for end-market investment, innovation, and growth, which in turn can support the expansion and stabilization of recycling programs.

1. Bills in four American states:

The four states that have adopted PCR content requirements for plastic packaging containers are: California, Washington, New Jersey, and Maine; Two of them, California and Washington, have already gone into effect. See the table below for details:

State

Covered product

 

PCR content requirement

California

(AB 793)

 

Beverage bottles (including plastic bottles) recycling

 

2022.1.1——15%

2025.1.1——25%

2030.1.1——50%

 

California

(SB 270)

 

Reusable Plastic Shopping Bag (2.25mil minimum thickness) recycling

 

2016.1.1——20%

2020.1.1——40%

 

Washington state

(SB 5022)

 

Plastic beverage bottle recycling

2023.1.1——15%

2026.1.1——25%

2031.1.1——50%

 

Plastic Wine Bottle (187ml) Milk packaging recycling

 

2028.1.1——15%

2031.1.1——25%

2036.1.1——50%

 

Plastic household cleaning and washing

 

2025.1.1——15%

2028.1.1——25%

2031.1.1——50%

 

Plastic garbage bags recycling

2023.1.1——10%

2025.1.1——15%

2027.1.1——20%

Washington state

(SB 5323)

 

Reusable plastic bag (Film bag: 2.25mil minimum thickness (2025.12.31) 4mil minimum thickness (2026.1.1)

2022.7.1——40%

New Jersey

(S2515)

 

Plastic beverage container

 

2024.1 -- 15% (increase by 5% to 50% every three years)

All other hard plastic containers

 

2024.1 -- 10% (increase by 10% to 50% every three years)

 

plastic shopping bag

2024.1——20%

2027.1——40%

Plastic garbage bag

024.1-5-20%

2027.1-10-40%

(The specific amount depends on the thickness of the bag)

Maine

(LD 1467)

 

Plastic beverage container

 

2026.1.1——25%

2031.1.1——30%

 

2. Proposals from Canada and the European Union are in the works:

In February last year, Canada issued a document entitled "Technical Issues related to the Regulation of Recycled Ingredients for certain plastics". Solicit opinions from various interested parties. The technical issues paper proposes to include the following categories of products in the scope of the recall ingredients requirement: beverage containers; Bottles (other than those in direct contact with food); Hard containers and pallets (other than those in direct contact with food) that are not bottled; Foam packaging (except packaging in direct contact with food); Film and soft plastic packaging (other than those in direct contact with food); Garbage bags; And the trash can. The regulations are currently being developed, with initial progress expected in the fall.

Last November, the European Commission published its proposal for a Regulation on Packaging and Packaging Waste (PPWD), a revision of the current Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive 94/62/EC. The proposal involves key information such as recyclability, minimum recycling content, reuse, labeling, etc. The proposal has aroused wide attention from all walks of life, including opposition from various stakeholders to the detailed provisions.

3. PCR certification requirements:

Currently, California's SB270 requires third-party PCR certification for post-consumer recycled plastics; New Jersey's S2515 leaves it up to the state to decide; According to the Discretionary Advisory Committee, there is a strong possibility that PCR certification will be included within the scope of Maine's LD1467 statute, and the possibility of PCR record-keeping and third-party certification will be discussed during the ongoing rulemaking process.

4. PCR in short supply:

The mandatory use of PCR strengthens and stabilizes market demand, but does not by itself lead to more supply. In other words, the fact that packaging producers need a greater supply of post-consumer recycled plastic doesn't mean that consumers will automatically put more recyclables in their bins, nor does it mean that municipalities will recycle more post-consumer plastic. This leads to a lack or even falsification of the supply side in the market. Therefore, PCR content requirements must be matched with supply-side policies that directly affect households and businesses to recycle more post-consumer plastic, such as EPRs, deposit return systems, etc.

By the end of 2022, four states had passed EPR laws, and 10 states had proposed EPRs by 2023. Packaging EPR policies broadly apply to most consumer-facing packaging, including most food and beverage packaging, but vary slightly from state to state. The EPR policy provides incentives for ecological regulation of the market: brand companies are rewarded for the high frequency of PCR use, with economic incentives to reduce their costs in the EPR program. For example, a manufacturer may pay a lower fee for a package with a higher PCR content, or a higher fee for a product with a lower PCR content or that is difficult to recycle.

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