Frequently Asked Questions

This page has been developed to answer questions commonly asked about California’s Recycled-Content Newsprint (RCN) Program. For further information, please refer to the California Code of Regulations, Title 14 (14 CCR), Division 7, Chapter 4, Article 4, Sections 17950-17974, and to Public Resources Code (PRC) Sections 42750 – 42791.

What is the purpose of the RCN program?

In general, the program’s purpose is to promote and sustain markets for the collection and use of postconsumer newsprint in California.

What is considered “RCN”?

For the purposes of this law, RCN is defined as newsprint comprised of at least 40 percent postconsumer waste paper fiber by weight.

See PRC 42756.

Who must comply with the RCN Program?

As defined below, newsprint consumers (printers and publishers), suppliers and manufacturers must comply with the program requirements.

  • Newsprint printers or publishers (“consumers”): Entities that use newsprint in a commercial printing or publishing process in California (not just for packaging or maintenance purposes).
  • Newsprint suppliers: Entities that supply newsprint to printers or publishers or to those businesses that will supply it to printers or publishers that will use it in California. (This includes manufacturers who supply newsprint.)
  • Newsprint manufacturers: Entities (based in the United States or another country) that produce newsprint which will be shipped to and used in California.

See 14 CCR Sections 17954 and 17956.

What does the RCN Program require?

The program requires that:

Printers and publishers ensure that 50 percent of all newsprint consumed in a calendar year (January through December) is RCN, and annually certify to the State (by March 1) the actual amounts used (using the “Newsprint Consumer Certification” Form 430).

See 14 CCR Sections 17956(a) and 17958(a) and (b).

Suppliers certify the metric tons of RCN and non-RCN in every shipment to printers, publishers, or other newsprint suppliers. Specifically, every shipment of newsprint to a printer, a publisher, or another supplier must include a certification with:

  • The supplier’s name, mailing address, and phone number.
  • The name and physical address of the printer or publisher or supplier to whom the newsprint shipment is being sent.
  • The newsprint grade and the date(s) of shipment.
  • Total, in metric tons, by grade, of RCN shipped.
  • Total, in metric tons, by grade, of newsprint containing less than 40 percent postconsumer waste paper (i.e., non-RCN newsprint) shipped.
  • If the shipment contains no RCN, the supplier shall so certify.

See 14 CCR Section 17960(a).

Manufacturers certify the metric tons of RCN, by grade, contained in each shipment made to a printer, publisher, or supplier for use in California. Manufacturers must also annually certify to the State (by March 1) the metric tons of postconsumer waste paper and/or deinked pulp received or produced at each of their mills producing RCN newsprint for use in California; and the metric tons of RCN, by grade, produced at each of their mills, which were shipped for use in California during the reporting period.

See 14 CCR Section 17962(a).

How does a printer or publisher determine if it has met the 50 percent RCN usage requirement?

In completing Section II of the Newsprint Consumer Certification, form 430, a consumer will calculate if it has met this requirement. Specifically, a consumer reports the total newsprint used during the year including the subtotals of RCN and non-RCN, and then calculates the percentage of RCN used by dividing the RCN tonnage by the total newsprint tonnage (i.e., RCN / (RCN + non-RCN)).

Note that in the certification, consumers report the total metric tonnage of newsprint in each category, not the weight of the postconsumer fiber in that tonnage. So, per the program definitions, “RCN” is newsprint with at least 40 percent recycled fiber content, and “non-RCN” is newsprint with 0–39 percent recycled content.

For example, a publisher uses 250 metric tons of newsprint with 12 percent postconsumer wastepaper fiber content, 400 metric tons of newsprint with 45 percent postconsumer wastepaper fiber, 300 tons of newsprint with 100 percent postconsumer wastepaper fiber, and 50 tons of virgin newsprint during a calendar year. On the Newsprint Consumer Certification, the consumer would report 700 metric tons of RCN and 300 metric tons of non-RCN, for a total 1,000 metric tons of newsprint used. The RCN usage rate would be 700 divided by 1,000 or 70 percent.

Is there a means for a printer or publisher to request an exemption if it cannot meet the RCN use requirement?

Yes, a printer or publisher may request an exemption using Section III of the Newsprint Consumer Certification for one or more of the following reasons during a given reporting period:

  • The RCN did not meet the quality standards established for the program.
  • The RCN was not available at a comparable price to non-RCN newsprint.
  • The RCN was not available in a reasonable time.

These situations must be specific to the grade of newsprint for which the printer or publisher is seeking exemption. Additionally, if it cannot comply with the RCN requirements, a printer or publisher needs to complete Section IV of Form 430 to document its good faith efforts to obtain RCN.

See 14 CCR Sections 17972(a), 17964, 17966, and 17968.

Are the consumer and manufacturer certifications always due to the State by March 1?

Yes, these annual certifications must be received by the State on or before March 1, unless March 1 falls on a weekend, in which case the certifications will be due on the next working day.

I’m a publisher but did not print my own publications or did not print in California during the reporting year. What do I need to report?

Just complete, sign, and submit Section I of the Newsprint Consumer Certification (Form 430). Check box 13, and where indicated list the printer(s) of your newsprint publications.

I’m a printer but didn’t use any newsprint during the reporting year. Do I need to report?

If you receive the reminder and annual certification packet (mailed out each year) it means you are on our list of active firms. Please complete, sign, and submit Section I of the Newsprint Consumer Certification (Form 430). Check box 13 and note on the form or in a cover memo whether your firm has permanently dropped newsprint from its operations or whether you might use it again.

I’m a manufacturer but neither produced nor supplied any RCN for California during the reporting period. Do I need to report?

If you receive the reminder and annual certification packet (mailed out each year) it means you are on our list of active firms. You do not need to submit a formal certification but please send a brief letter or e-mail to let us know that you had no reportable RCN data for the year and whether you have permanently ceased RCN production and shipments to California.

I was an active newsprint consumer or manufacturer but have ceased doing business in California. Do I need to report?

If you receive the reminder and annual certification packet (mailed out each year) it means you are still on our list of active firms. Please submit a certification including any partial-year activity and noting when you ceased operations.

What documentation must I maintain to verify program compliance?

RCN manufacturers must keep copies of all certifications sent to printers, publishers, suppliers and the State.

See 14 CCR Section 17962(b).

Suppliers of RCN must maintain records of the newsprint shipped to consumers or other suppliers, including the name of the manufacturer and production mill for newsprint you received, the names and addresses of consumers and suppliers to whom you supplied newsprint, the names and grades of the newsprint types and the tonnage of RCN and non-RCN in each shipment you supplied, and copies of the certifications you provided to newsprint consumers or other suppliers.

See 14 CCR Section 17960(b).

For each reporting cycle, newsprint printers and publishers must maintain the following purchase information for both RCN and non-RCN newsprint:

  • A copy of every shipment order, bill of lading, invoice, purchase order, or other evidence of shipment;
  • A copy of the annual “Newsprint Consumer Certification” (Form 430) submitted to the State; and
  • A copy of any supplier certifications received.

See 14 CCR Section 17958(c).

In addition, if a printer or publisher could not meet the RCN usage requirement and sought an exemption, it must maintain supporting documentation as follows:

  • If the RCN grade was not available at a comparable price, keep invoices for the newsprint purchased and copies of the quoted prices received for the RCN not purchased during that reporting period. Documentation may include written quotes, telephone logs, faxes, or e-mails.
  • If the RCN grade available did not meet the current program quality standards for brightness, opacity, or machine cross-tear strength, keep a copy of the technical specifications or letter from the manufacturer of that newsprint certifying that the newsprint does not meet the standards.
  • If the RCN grade was not available in a reasonable time, keep documentation of the order dates, quoted delivery times, and actual receipts of orders. Documentation may include invoices, bills of lading, telephone logs, faxes, or e-mails.

See 14 CCR Section 17972(c).

How long must I maintain the records supporting compliance with the RCN Program?

All printers, publishers and manufacturers must keep the records supporting an annual certification for at least three years from the date of signature on the certification. Similarly, newsprint suppliers must keep the specified records supporting each shipment for at least three years after the date of the shipment certification.

See 14 CCR Sections 17958(d), 17960(c), or 17962(c).

Some commercial printers have clients that provide the newsprint used in their presses. Should the commercial printer be the entity that reports this newsprint on its Newsprint Consumer Certification (Form 430)?

Yes, a printer should include in its certification form all newsprint it uses, including newsprint a customer purchased or provided.

See 14 CCR Section 17958(b).

What if I find an error in my certification after I’ve submitted it to the State?

If you haven’t already discussed the error and certification with program staff, please resubmit the certification with “Revised” written at the top, and note in your cover memo which sections were corrected.

Are there penalties for non-compliance with program requirements?

Consumers who file a certification 45 or more days late will be assessed a $500 penalty, and those who file a certification more than 90 days late will be assessed an additional $500.

Additionally, as specified in the statute and regulations, any person who does not comply with the program requirements may be found guilty of an infraction and/or subject to civil penalties of up to $1,000 per violation.

See 14 CCR Section 17974.

Does the State compile a report of accomplishments for each certification year?

Yes, the most recent annual compliance reports (including the latest one published) are available on the RCN Program home page.

For more information contact: Buy Recycled,