California restaurants may have to share in packaging costs

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Restaurants in California could be affected by higher packaging costs as a result of legislation the state enacted last week to reduce the long-term use of disposable containers and utensils.

The measure also calls for the use of polystyrene to be banned from 2026 if 25% of food packaging is not recycled by the end of 2025.

At the heart of the new law is a historical requirement that bottle manufacturers bear the cost of collecting and processing petroleum-based materials after they have been used. He calls for collective taxation of suppliers of $500 million annually over 10 years for reclamation efforts, which are currently borne by government agencies. And the more likely a manufacturer is to generate potential garbage or landfill, the higher its annual contribution to the $5 billion statewide fund.

The rationale is that the expenses will drive manufacturers to adopt materials that are easily converted and at a lower cost than the waste stream. But there are expectations that suppliers will factor in recycling or garbage collection costs into their prices, incentivizing customers like restaurants or even consumers to push for less expensive options that are environmentally friendly by chance.

This setting is known as Extended Producer Responsibility, or EPR. It has long been used in products such as car tires, car batteries, and electronics. But it wasn’t applied to packaging within the United States until last year, when Maine and Oregon passed legislation to ultimately make suppliers responsible for cleaning up trash and rejecting the waste they produce. More than 20 countries are now said to be interested in adopting this model.

Pressure was building rapidly in California to adopt this approach. Local supporters had made it likely that a referendum establishing the EPR would be included on the ballot in November if the state legislature and Governor Gavin Newsom did not act. He feared that the measure approved by the electorate would be far-reaching and more stringent.

The state assembly passed the bill by a vote of 67 to 2 on Wednesday. The Senate approved it the next morning by a 27-0 vote, and Newsom signed it into law later that day.

The law calls for the creation of a so-called Product Responsibility Organization (PRO), the entity that will distribute the $5 billion in plastic recovery and recycling, by January 1, 2024.

It also states that 65% of the plastic packaging used in the state is recyclable or compostable as of January 1, 2032. Otherwise, state officials can make new rules.

“By enforcing effective reductions in single-use plastic for packaging and creating an Extended Product Responsibility (EPR) system, this law addresses two of the primary causes of plastic pollution — excessive production of single-use plastics and outdated and underfunded recycling systems, ” Conrad McKerron, senior vice president of the nonprofit shareholder equity group As You Sow, said in a statement. “We have lobbied companies to endorse EPR regulations in the United States for more than a decade and welcome this long-overdue key to upgrading recycling for the 21st century.”

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