Accurate Recycling Labels

 

Many Californians rely on products’ chasing arrows symbol to tell if it’s recyclable.
Until 2021, California didn’t have a law against labeling a product recyclable even if it’s not widely recycled.

Lawmakers enacted SB 343 (Allen, Chapter 507, Statues of 2021), which prohibits use of the chasing arrows or any other indicator of recyclability on products and packaging unless certain criteria are met.

Increasing recycling in California first requires accurate labels on recyclables. As California moves toward a circular economy that designs all products and packaging to get recycled into new products, this law will ensure recycling labels help consumers recycle correctly.

Identifies What Gets Recycled

SB 343 directs CalRecycle to publish data about the types of materials actually recycled in California. Manufacturers and the public must use this data to make all determinations about whether a product meets the criteria to be called recyclable. The law also outlaws manufacturers and others from selling products or packaging labeled as recyclable unless the items are regularly collected and processed for recycling in the state.

This will:

  • Help vendors and consumers make informed decisions about products
  • Provide an objective basis for holding manufacturers, distributors, and retailers responsible for misleading consumers about whether products get recycled
1. Law sets statewide recyclable criteria, 2 CalRecycle collects data from material characterization study, 3 manufacturers use criteria to accurately label products, 4 law prohibits selling products with inaccurate recycling labels

Steps to Identify What’s Recyclable

Often referred to by industry stakeholders as the “Truth in Recycling” or “Truth in Labeling” law, SB 343 requires CalRecycle to complete two major steps by January 1, 2024. 

CalRecycle-Led Material Characterization Study + Material Recovery Facility Reports = Materials Collected, and Sorted in CA for Recycling

Step 1. Study of What Gets Recycled (Material Characterization Studies)

  • CalRecycle will commission a statewide analysis at material recovery facilities in 2023 to identify which materials are commonly collected, sorted, sold, or transferred for recycling in California.
  • CalRecycle will publish preliminary findings by January 1, 2024.
  • After publishing the preliminary findings, CalRecycle will conduct a public meeting and receive public comments.
  • Within 60 days of the public meeting, CalRecycle will finalize and publish the findings of the study.

The law also requires ongoing studies to make updates to the statewide analysis. The second study will be completed by 2027, with future studies every 5 years after that.

New: Material Characterization Study Request for Proposal

 

 

Step 2. New Reporting Requirements

CalRecycle will update regulations to require material management facilities and operations to report regularly through CalRecycle’s Recycling and Disposal Reporting System:

  • How materials are collected or processed in the state
  • Which material types and forms facilities recover and don’t consider contaminants

The Way to Recycle More Products

Manufacturers play a strategic role in ensuring the products they sell are recycled at the end of their useful life. SB 343 will provide information to these businesses so they can accurately label their products to help consumers easily identify what is and isn’t recyclable in California.

Producers design products to be recycled and accurately label products. SB 343 identifies what is recyclable in California so that consumers can accurately identify what is recyclable.

Program Implementation of SB 343

implementation timeline
  • 2021 Gov. Newsom Signed SB 343 into Law
  • 2022 October-November: Request for Proposals for Material Characterization Study
  • 2022 December: Material Characterization Study Contract Announcement
  • 2023 Summer: Anticipated Material Characterization Study Field Word
  • 2024 January 1: Preliminary findings published: Public comments received via Public Meeting
  • 2024 January 1: Regulations Update: Material Recover Facilities Required to Report to CalRecycle
  • 2024 March/April: Final Material Characterization Study Findings Published
  • 2025 Fall: New Prohibitions Against mislabeling of products
  • 2027: Second Material Characterization study findings published
  • 2032: Additional Findings published every 5 years

Provides Information to Clarify Mislabeling

Although existing laws make it illegal to use deceptive labels on products, little credible information was available to define accurate and deceptive recycling labels.

SB 343 directs CalRecycle to:

  • Research what is collected and processed for recycling in California and
  • Publish this information so manufacturers can accurately label products that get recycled.

Local Jurisdictions and the California Attorney General may also use this information when filing civil suits and charging monetary penalties against companies who are not labeling their products accurately.  Deceptive labeling is also subject to civil suits pursuant to the Business and Professions Code

After CalRecycle publishes each new study, manufacturers will have 18 months to ensure the updated information supports the use of the chasing arrows recycling symbol on their products. 

Public Feedback

CalRecycle will hold a public workshop in early 2024 to hear public comments and questions after publishing the preliminary material characterization study . Notifications of open comment periods and public workshops will be shared via the SB 343 listserv. To sign up, subscribe below.

Contact Us

To receive email updates about CalRecycle’s progress on the SB 343 Material Characterization Study, please subscribe to the SB 343 MCS listserv.

If you have questions regarding the SB 343 material characterization study or other CalRecycle waste characterization studies, please send your questions to wastechar@calrecycle.ca.gov.

For more information on the rulemaking process regarding updates to the reporting requirements for materials management facilities and operations, please visit the CalRecycle Recycling and Disposal Reporting System Regulations Webpage.

For more information contact: Office of Public Affairs, opa@calrecycle.ca.gov