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Materials Covered under California's Plastics Legislation

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

California’s SB 54, or the Plastic Producer Responsibility Act, represents a substantial expansion of the increasingly popular form of legislation focused on extended producer responsibility (EPR) for plastic recycling. While a few other states have passed similar bills, California’s outsized economy means that producers nationwide and internationally must take notice. Still, the lengthy bill text and ongoing development of CalRecycle’s oversight systems makes it difficult to understand exactly what consumer goods are included.


CalRecycle will begin publishing a list of recyclable and compostable materials starting in 2024, but the bill text already goes into significant detail on what will fall under SB 54 regulations. At the most basic level, covered materials are single-use packaging and plastic single-use food service ware.

Plastic food service ware includes plastic-coated paper, clamshells, lids, cups, bags, and wrappers. Non-plastic single-use food service ware like paper popcorn bags or foil-wrappers for burritos are excluded. Other exceptions include medical devices, drugs, infant formula, and hazardous materials.


Covered materials are subject to a variety of regulations by 2032. By then, all covered materials in California must be recyclable and/or compostable. SB 54 mandates a 25% reduction for plastic covered materials in the state from 2022 levels. Furthermore, 65% of plastic covered materials sold or distributed in-state must be recycled or composted. Given that the US’s current plastic recycling rate is sitting at 5%, SB 54 will require significant investment into recycling technologies and facilities.


For more information contact Catherine W. Johnson at cjohnson@egcounsel.com


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