State Legislative Update

Almost every state legislature has convened for the year, and a few have already finished their regular sessions. In the rest, bill introduction deadlines and chamber crossover deadlines are quickly approaching, so recyclers should keep a close eye on the amendments that will impact their businesses. ISRI makes it easy to view the bills and regulations targeting plastics as well as other commodities and issues on our State Resources and Tracking pages.

Single Use Plastics
Recent media coverage of ocean plastics have led to a new trend in state legislatures: bills seeking to ban or restrict straws, disposable flatware, and other "single use plastics." California passed the first straw law last year with 2018 California AB 1884, banning full-service restaurants from providing single use plastic straws unless the customer asks for one. While these bills do not directly impact recyclers, they often overlap with bag bans and other auxiliary container measures.

Auxiliary Containers
We are only three months into 2019, and ISRI is already tracking more auxiliary container bills than were introduced in the entire 2017-2018 cycle. While many of these bills specifically seek to impose restrictions or fees on plastic bags, others also seek to restrict paper bags or set manufacturing requirements for design or recycled content.

Despite the large majority of these bills seeking state or local bans or taxes on bags, only California has passed a statewide ban. Instead, bills prohibiting city or county restrictions on auxiliary containers have been the only ones to pass in recent sessions. However, 2019 could prove a tipping point:

  • The New Jersey governor and legislature declared their intent to pass legislation in 2018, but so far have not done so; 2018 NJ AB 3267 was vetoed for not going far enough (5 cent fee on single use carryout bags);
  • Illinois and New York governors included auxiliary container restrictions in their budget requests;
  • Washington SB 5323, banning single use plastic carryout bags, requiring a "pass-through" charge on recycled content paper bags and reusable plastic bags, and setting manufacturer standards for paper and reusable bags, passed the Senate with minor amendments and has been referred to the House Environment and Energy Committee.

Packaging EPR/Product Stewardship
While previous years had seen declining interest in extended producer responsibility (EPR) model bills for products that have existing recycling markets, the previously mentioned coverage of ocean plastics and market difficulties have also been driving renewed interest for these measures in the states.

Packaging EPR bills range from measures such as Indiana SB 619 that specifically target printed paper and packaging to framework bills such as Massachusetts HB 810 that could bring a wide range of materials under its scope. These bills typically do not move beyond their committee of origin (similar bills have been introduced annually in Indiana for several years).

Although Washington SB 5397 (originally introduced as a plastics packaging EPR bill) did recently pass the state Senate, a substitute amendment changed it into a study bill requiring the Washington Department of Ecology to "evaluate and assess the amount and types of plastic packaging sold into the state as well as the management and disposal of plastic packaging" and report back to the legislature by October 31, 2020. The report would include an evaluation of the costs and savings in existing product stewardship programs where they have been implemented and options for the legislature to consider to meet plastic packaging reduction goals.

If you'd like to find out what changes could impact your company, visit ISRI's State Policy page or contact Danielle Waterfield if you have any questions about the system or legislation impacting your state.

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