In an effort to help the growing problem of discarded plastic, California’s Governor, Gavin Newsom signed a new bill into law recently. This bill is said to be one of the strictest standards for which items can display the “chasing arrows” recycling symbol.

Most consumers assume that the symbol means that items can go into curbside recycling bins. Because of this, environmental advocates were concerned that people would think the symbol showing three circular arrows means that items could go out with their other recycling for processing. California’s Statewide Commission on Recycling Markets and Curbside Recycling recommended that the symbol “be reserved for materials which are accepted in curbside bins and do not cause contamination.”

Currently, some items with the “chasing arrows” recycling symbol are actually made of mixed plastics that need to go to a dedicated recycling center, not curbside. Besides the plastics, they may also contain hazardous material, making them not compatible with composting as well. Starting on January 1, 2024, the only items allowed to be manufactured with the recycling symbol are those that meet statewide recyclability criteria.

In addition, in order to qualify as recyclable, a product or packaging must meet the following requirements:

• No components, inks, adhesives or labels that prevent recyclability according to the APR Design Guide® published by the Association of Plastic Recyclers.
• No intentionally added chemicals that would act as a contaminant, as identified in Section 42370.2(g)(4).
• No perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAs that are intentionally added and have a functional or technical effect, or exceed 100 parts per million.

The law does provide an exemption from all of the requirements above. A product or packaging that has a demonstrated recycling rate of at least 75 percent, meaning that “not less than 75 percent of the product or packaging sorted and aggregated in the state is reprocessed into new products or packaging” is exempt from this law.

Last week, California also signed into law  a number of other environmental laws concerning consumer products and packaging. You can read more about the new laws HERE.