State laws on post-consumer recycled content ‘moving faster than industry’

“On their face, the requirements of these laws appear reasonably clear: producers must register with the state, pay certain fees, make reports as to the percentage of post-consumer recycled content used in their packaging and meet certain benchmarks for PCR,” ​Samuel Butler, of counsel at Lathrop GMP LLP, told Nutra Ingredients-USA. 

“The difficulty has to do with logistics and the market—these laws are essentially trying to create a market for post-consumer recycled material that does not currently exist.”

Industry experts say that a push to mandate demand for this recycled content – reprocessed from household or commercial packaging – is just one component of a bigger formula that must factor in supply chain challenges, fully recyclable packaging, total carbon footprint and product integrity, among other considerations. 

What’s in a PCR content law?

Three states have already passed legislation in the drive to reduce dependence on virgin plastics (often from restrictive and unreliable markets) and buttress domestic recycling economies.

California’s Plastic Minimum Content Standards law (AB 793) went into effect this year, requiring plastic beverage containers covered by the bottle deposit program to contain at least 15% PCR by 2022, 25% by 2025 and 50% by 2030. The state already mandates minimum recycled content for glass and rigid plastic packaging containers. 

Beginning 2023, Washington State plans to start phasing in PCR standards for plastic beverage bottles, plastic trash bags and plastic bottles for household cleaning and personal care products. New Jersey is scheduled to follow suit in 2024, with requirements for non-beverage plastic containers, plastic beverage containers and glass containers.

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