Plastics White Paper Project

To address the need for a comprehensive approach to plastics in California, the CIWMB (now known as CalRecycle), in partnership with the Department of Conservation (DOC), hired NewPoint Group, Inc. to prepare a report, including policy options, for consideration by CalRecycle and DOC.

This much anticipated report presents a comprehensive review of plastics, examining existing State policies and presenting options for CalRecycle and Department of Conservation to consider. A separate report to the California Legislature on polystyrene use and disposal in California required by SB 1127 was also developed.

Final Reports and Next Steps

The final version of the plastics white paper report was accepted by the Board at its June 17, 2003 meeting. The polystyrene report was accepted by the Board at its March 16, 2004, meeting. Both may be downloaded from CalRecycle’s publications catalog via the links below.

In adopting selected recommendations from the Plastics White Paper, the Board directed CIWMB staff to work with industry, environmental, and local governmental stakeholders in a collaborative, open public process to develop solutions to the low overall recycling rate for plastic. The Board directed staff to focus on solutions that incorporated the concepts of producer responsibility and product stewardship in developing new ideas for managing plastic materials. The Board also directed staff to specifically focus on efforts to increase plastic collection and recycling and support new and emerging technologies such as biodegradable/degradable plastic products and chemical recycling technologies.


Plastics—people have different perspectives on the material. To some, the word conjures up thoughts of a miracle material used to save lives and improve the world in which we live. To others, it reminds them of the litter polluting our rivers and oceans and raises fears of serious environmental and public health issues. We hear differing “facts” from those with different perspectives. How can we sort out the real facts and issues?

The California Integrated Waste Management Board (now known as the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery or CalRecycle) recognized this problem and the need for a comprehensive approach to plastics in California. To develop a process and information that individuals and organizations could agree was objective, the Board, in partnership with the Department of Conservation, hired NewPoint Group, Inc. to sort through all of the available information and prepare a report, including policy options, for consideration by the Board and the Department of Conservation. NewPoint is an independent and impartial third party with substantial experience in plastic and recycling issues. 

NewPoint is identifying issues and systematically analyzing the manufacturing and plastics use cycle to identify innovative solutions to (1) conserve resources, (2) increase the plastics recycling rate, and (3) increase the use of recycled plastics. In addition to an overall review of plastics, they are specifically focusing on containers (rigid plastic packaging and beverage), film, and polystyrene pursuant to SB 1127 (Karnette, Chapter 406, Statutes of 2001).

Report Development/Stakeholder Input

The draft “Plastics White Paper and Polystyrene Report” was the primary focus of a Plastics Interested Parties Meeting on September 26, 2002. This meeting of stakeholders offered opinions and perspectives regarding the findings and recommendations contained in the report. Stakeholders were able to participate via teleconference and listen via audio streaming broadcast on the Internet.

The draft report was further discussed at the October 7, 2002 Special Waste and Market Development Committee meeting. This was an opportunity for stakeholders to offer comments “on the record” directly to Board members. After editing by the contractor, NewPoint Group, the initial draft report was posted on this site and discussed at a Plastics Interested Parties Meeting on November 21, 2002. Board members considered the initial draft report at the December 2, 2002 Special Waste and Market Development Committee and December 10-11, 2002 Board meetings.

There has been significant stakeholder input in developing the report. Several issue-framing sessions were held with numerous stakeholders groups (including waste haulers, container and trash bag manufacturers, processors, Recycling Market Development Zone Administrators, and environmentalists), with written position papers submitted by several key representatives.

A stakeholder forum was held at the CalEPA Headquarters on June 24-25, 2002, to further discuss various issues and receive feedback on possible policy options. More than 50 stakeholders attended the workshop, with another 30 participating via audio streaming broadcast on the Internet. Several stakeholders submitted written comments after the June forum. Additionally, there have been focused follow-up sessions with specific stakeholders regarding film plastic and polystyrene.

If you have questions, please contact the staff listed below.

Phone: (916) 341-6717  |   Email:  |  Fax: (916) 319-7337