New Jersey passes sweeping recycled content law

New Jersey is the latest state to review recycled content obligations as a way to force demand for recycled materials. | Real Window Creative / Shutterstock

The New Jersey legislature will send the governor a bill requiring post-consumer content in plastic containers and bags as well as glass bottles and paper bags.

S 2515, which received final votes in both the State Assembly and Senate on Jan. 10, places strict requirements on manufacturers to use recycled materials in their products. Much of the focus is on plastics.

If the law were enacted, producers would ultimately need 50% post-consumer resin (PCR) in plastic beverage and non-beverage containers, 40% PCR in take-out bags and up to 40% of PCR in the thickest types of garbage bags.

Here are the recycled content requirements of the bill:

Packaging and plastic films

Much of the bill is for PCR requirements for plastic containers and films. Here are the mandates:

  • Rigid plastic containers (not intended for drinks): 10% PCR two years after the date of entry into force of the bill. Then, after three years (and every three years thereafter), the percentage increases by 10 percentage points until it reaches 50%.
  • Rigid plastic beverage containers: 15% PCR after two years. Then, after an additional three years (and every three years thereafter), the requirement increases by 5 percentage points until it reaches 50% (except for beverages filled by a “hot fill process”; they would be capped at 30% PCR).
  • Plastic take-out bags: 20% PCR after two years and 40% PCR three years later.
  • Garbage bag: PCR requirements vary depending on the thickness of the bag. After two years, the following requirements come into effect: 5% for bags with a thickness of 0.70 mil to 0.80 mil, 10% for bags of 0.80 mil to 1.00 mil, 20% for bags thicker than 1 mil. After another three years, each of these required percentages will double.

Glass containers and paper bags

Here are the requirements for glass containers and paper take-out bags:

  • Glass containers: 35% post-consumer glass after two years; however, if half of the recycled glass is cullet of mixed colors, the recycled content requirement drops to 25%.
  • Take-out paper bags: 40% post-consumer fiber after two years; however, bags that contain eight pounds or less would only need 20% post-consumer fiber.

The legislation gives the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) the power to adjust targets after taking into account various factors including changes in market conditions, recycling rates, availability recycled materials, the capacity of recycling infrastructure and the progress made by manufacturers.

The bill includes a number of key exemptions. Food packaging (except plastic and glass beverage containers) would be exempt from the recycled content requirements for five years. The bill also completely exempts packaging for plant-based milk and dairy drinks, medical foods, foods for special dietary uses, and infant formula.

The bill also bans bulk polystyrene packaging, such as peanut packaging.

Additionally, the law requires the state to consult with the Association of New Jersey Recyclers and the New Jersey Clean Communities Program to launch a statewide recycling education campaign.

Initially adopted in the Senate last June

On January 10, the Assembly voted 48-26 (along with three other non-voting representatives) to approve the bill. The Senate then immediately voted 22-15 in favor of the bill, which was originally passed by the Senate in June 2021 but was subsequently amended by the Assembly, meaning it required another Senate vote.

Bill is now heading to the office of Democratic New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) issued a statement welcoming the passage of the bill, saying it “reflects a firm commitment not only to increase the use of recycled content in packaging materials, but to develop a sustainable program with quantifiable measures and realistic objectives. .

“This will help increase stakeholder engagement throughout the supply chain to ensure plastics are responsibly produced, collected and recycled into new products,” the statement added.

New Jersey is just the latest state to review recycled content obligations as a way to force demand for recycled materials. In recent years, California and Washington state have passed and signed bills imposing their own plastic packaging requirements (California is among the states that already have recycled content requirements for plastic packaging. glass bottles).

A packaging industry lobbyist previously said the New Jersey bill is broader than West Coast political efforts, according to Plastics News.

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