Northeast Recycling Council Makes Push for Minimum Post-Consumer Recycled Plastic Requirements in Region

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by | Jan 6, 2022

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Yesterday, the nonprofit organization Northeast Recycling Council, an advocate for sustainable waste management, invited public comments on its model legislation for minimum post-consumer recycled plastic requirements. The bill proposes that producers of certain plastic products must manufacture them with a minimum amount of post-consumer recycled plastic. Products encompassed by the bill include trash bags, takeout bags, and non-durable containers used for food, beverages, household cleaning, and personal care products. Each product has a specified requirement, which will increase overtime. For instance, takeout bags must have 20% post-consumer recycled content after two years and 40% after five years, while plastic beverage containers must have 15% post-consumer recycled content after two years and 25% after five years.

The bill was developed over the past 18 months by a working group of state recycling officials from the northeast. It is intended to serve as a jumping-off point for the development of bona fide legislation on minimum post-consumer plastic requirements to be used in the 11-state region, comprised of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Members of the working group included the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. The working group spoke with trade associations, consultants, industry, and other state governments to inform the content of the bill. It also reviewed relevant legislation enacted in California and Washington and proposed in New Jersey. Drawing from the Washington bill’s language on penalties, the model legislation imposes a fee equal to,

“The total pounds of plastic used per category multiplied by the relevant minimum post-consumer recycled plastic target percentage, less the pounds of  total plastic multiplied by the percent of post-consumer recycled plastic used; multiplied by 20 cents.”

Post-consumer recycled content designates recycled material that has completed its intended end use, in contrast to pre-consumer recycled content, which includes scraps and defects that never made it to the consumer. While both are preferable to virgin inputs, post-consumer is generally considered to be the more eco-friendly option, but is more difficult to recycle due to its likelihood of being more contaminated.

Last spring, Palmolive relaunched its Palmolive Ultra dish soap with 100% post-consumer recycled plastic, estimating a diversion of more than 5,200 tons of plastic per year from landfills in the US and Canada. 

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