Plastic Container Cooperative Recycling Initiative

In January 2006 the California Integrated Waste Management Board (now known as the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery or CalRecycle) began a cooperative initiative to increase plastic container recycling in California. In January 2007, this initiative was placed on hold as program priorities were reconsidered, and the project has not been resumed. Thank you to those who participated. CalRecycle looks forward to working with stakeholders in the future to expand California’s plastic container recovery.

Project History

To facilitate the collection of data on the current state of plastic container generation, disposal, export, and recycling, and for making future recommendations on what materials, programs, and projects to focus on to increase container recovery, CIWMB staff conducted stakeholder workshops and identified four workgroups to focus on these issues. Information on these workshops is available below.

“Fishbone Exercise”. At the January 25 meeting, CIWMB staff and stakeholders completed the “fishbone exercise” to identify the specific causes for the low collection and recovery of plastic containers, including California Redemption Value (CRV) containers. The completed fishbone exercise is also available.

Problem Statement

CIWMB identified the need for increased plastic container recycling as a priority problem for the following reasons:

  • Low recycling rates for plastic. Recycling rates for plastic materials are very low. CIWMB estimated that less than 5 percent of plastic in California is recycled. Recycling rates for plastic containers have been steadily declining while their production and use is significantly increasing.
  • Facilitate compliance with California’s Rigid Plastic Packaging Container Law. The RPPC Law was enacted to divert plastic from California landfills and to help spur and support the infrastructure for collecting and processing post consumer plastic. In addition, other states have similar laws, including Oregon, Wisconsin, and New Jersey (which is considering legislation very much like California’s RPPC law).
  • Decrease disposal. Plastic containers comprised an estimated 612,153 tons of the overall waste stream in the 2004 Waste Characterization Study–16.1 percent of all plastic disposed. Containers continue to represent one of the most readably recyclable categories of disposed plastic, making them an important focus for increased collection efforts.
  • Reduce litter. Plastic containers constitute a significant part of the litter problem, which is unsightly, and costly to clean up, especially when it enters storm drains and rivers, and can have serious negative impacts to shore birds and sea life.
  • Conserve resources. Production of plastic from virgin resources consumes petroleum and other natural resources. Very little recycled material is used to produce containers, despite the fact that increasing recycled content can reduce the use of energy and other scarce natural resources.


CalRecycle has been implementing the Rigid Plastic Packaging Container law since 1997. Product manufacturers regulated under this law have been providing feedback to CalRecycle indicating that there is insufficient supply of postconsumer material (PCM) to meet demand. During this same period of time, the production and use of plastic packaging has continued to increase, while the recovery rates for plastic containers has declined.