Environmental Law

California Mandatory Packaging Waste Management Initiative

By Charles A. White, Senior Advisor, Environment

CalRecycle, the California state agency responsible for solid waste and recycling regulatory programs, estimates that packaging represents about one-quarter of California's total disposal stream. Packaging includes cardboard, paper, plastic, metals and other materials used to enclose or protect products for distribution, storage, sale and use. Further, CalRecycle has adopted a statewide policy goal that by 2020, at least 75 percent of solid waste generated will be source reduced, recycled, or composted. The agency has focused efforts since 2012 on engaging stakeholders to identify and explore opportunities relative to packaging as one part of a comprehensive set of strategies to reach the statewide goal of 75 percent.

It is expected that CalRecycle will formulate a California statewide packaging policy model by early 2018. It is likely that this policy will be considered a possible framework for new legislation in 2018 and beyond. CalRecycle and various stakeholders have identified several potential mandatory measures that could be used by manufacturers and packaging suppliers to reduce packaging waste. These include:

  • Mandatory source reduction plans and programs
  • Extended producer responsibility for the recovery of packaging waste
  • Minimum recycled content packaging requirements
  • Landfill bans on recyclable packaging
  • Advanced recycling fees on packaging materials

CalRecycle is currently soliciting comments from stakeholders on the criteria that should be used to determine the appropriate types of mandatory programs that should be established to address packaging waste in California. This initiative could have a profound impact on participants in the packaging and packaging waste supply chain in California, including public and private solid waste services providers, manufacturers, distributors, retailers and consumers—virtually anyone who touches packaging and packaging waste in California. The next CalRecycle workshop on the criteria that should be used to select mandatory packaging programs is scheduled for Sept. 19 in Sacramento.

Manatt is prepared to represent our clients’ interests in this matter. We are participating with the Environmental Quality Committee of the California Manufacturers and Technology Association (CMTA) and are tracking this initiative on our own.

Attached are two recent letters by the CMTA and Manatt that express concerns about CalRecycle’s direction in this matter.

Comments regarding CalRecycle’s “Draft Screening Criteria for Determining Priority Packaging Types”

Coalition Letter

Please contact Charles A. White at Manatt in Sacramento or your primary Manatt contact if you wish Manatt to represent your interests further in this matter.



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