California panel wants to crack down on bag and film recycling claims

California government commission tasked with improving recycling for the first time calls on state attorney general and other agencies to crack down on what it says are illegal environmental labeling claims on plastic bags and film. plastic.

The California Statewide Commission on Recycling Markets and Curbside Recycling sent a letter in December to CalRecycle and Attorney General Rob Bonta, saying his review of recycling messages on bags and films revealed dozens of legal violations. state and federal.

Specifically, the commission said claims about recyclability, including the use of versions of the popular chasing arrows symbol, confuse consumers and make them mistakenly think that flexible plastics can be recycled into waste materials. ordinary trash cans. He wants the state to demand that these labels be removed.

But the commission’s proposal is drawing opposition from industry, which says popular labels like the How2Recycle system help educate the public about when and when materials can be put in curbside trash cans, such as in the case of bags and films, they should be taken to store deposit places.

They argue that removing recycling labeling altogether will send more plastic to landfills and hurt in-store bag recycling efforts. And they say their labels comply with federal and state laws.

The commission sent a letter to CalRecycle and Bonta on December 3 giving 80 examples of companies selling flexible plastic packaging in the state with recyclability claims that it says violate laws – by naming retailers, brands and specific plastics companies.

“Based on current California law, we are of the opinion that the recyclable labels used on many plastic bags and films in California described below are not legal… and contribute to confusion and contamination of consumers, ”the commission wrote. “We are writing to demand that existing California plastic bag labeling laws be enforced.”

Specifically, he said he wanted “retailers and manufacturers of products [to] be required to remove the word “recycle”, “recyclable” and / or the recycling symbol from plastic bags and films. “

The advisory group’s opinion does not have legal weight in itself, but it comes in the context of an in-depth examination of these allegations.

For example, the California legislature last year passed the country’s first law, Senate Bill 343, making it much more difficult to put recyclability and marketing labels on plastic packaging.

In addition, environmental groups have filed private lawsuits over such allegations, and the Government of Canada announced on January 6 its own C $ 3 million (US $ 2.36 million) settlement with Keurig Canada Inc. for “misleading” recyclability labels on plastic K-Cup pods.

Heidi Sanborn, the commission’s chairperson, said the group is following its charter and advising the state government on how it can start addressing recycling issues. She called the misleading labeling “handy fruit.”

“We have given a bunch of examples of how we think these claims are being misused and abused,” she said. “We have been tasked with reducing contamination in curbside waterways and giving advice on how to do this, and our advice is to ‘enforce the law’.”

Bonta’s office did not respond to a request for comment, but CalRecycle said it was eager to discuss the matter with the commission, which was created by the state legislature in 2019.

“CalRecycle shares the goal of ending misleading labeling and is also committed to truth and enforcement,” said spokesperson Lance Klug.

While the agency did not comment on the specific examples provided by the commission, Klug said SB-343 was an “essential first step for California to increase transparency in recycling labeling and end recycling labeling. ‘misleading use of the chasing arrows symbol “.

“The SB-343 will also clarify what is recyclable and what is not and will help Californians make informed decisions when purchasing products,” he said. “Under this law, 60% of the state will have to collect and recover materials for recycling to obtain a recyclable label.”

SB-343 does not come into full force until 2025. The commission said it was relying on older laws to make its recommendations.

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