On October 5, 2021, California Governor Newsom signed into law a suite of state environmental bills aimed at plastics and recycling. Notable among these is SB 343, which expands the boundaries of current state law on untruthful, deceptive, or misleading environmental marketing claims (commonly referred to as "greenwashing") to reflect claims as to the recyclability of a product or packaging.
Under the new bill, a product or packaging that displays a recycling-related symbol (such as the commonly-used "chasing arrows" symbol) will be deemed a deceptive or misleading claim unless the product or packaging is considered recyclable pursuant to new statewide recyclability criteria to be defined by CalRecycle - criteria which will take into consideration whether the material is actually recyclable in most California communities and is routinely sold to manufacturers to make new products. A violation of this provision will be a misdemeanor.
The new law will likely increase scrutiny of plastics- and recycling-related claims generally, including from state law enforcement. From 2017-2018, California prosecutors entered into settlements with several major US companies totaling over US$3m to resolve enforcement actions under California state law relating to packaging labelled as “biodegradable” or “compostable.” Similar enforcement actions may soon follow based on recyclability claims for products sold in California - one of the largest markets in the United States.
Read our previous piece on "greenwashing" claims and plastics recycling issues here.