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What You Need to Know About California’s New Single-Use Packaging Law

Growing consumer interest in sustainability is increasing demand, but it is new and proposed legislation that are driving the industry forward. This summer, history was made when the nation’s toughest sustainability bill, to date, became a law: California’s SB 54. This bill is highly complex with many fluid parts that will evolve over time. Great American Packaging is here to help you dissect and navigate current legislation and stay on top of new changes as they evolve. Let’s explore what we know so far.

Who will be impacted by SB 54?

Any business that manufactures, distributes, imports or sells products in the state of California where the product is covered by or contained in single-use packaging.

What is SB 54?

SB 54 is a law that passed in June 2022 with a focus on increasing single-use packaging regulations, creating Extended Producer Responsibility and mandating source reduction.

Single-Use Packaging Regulations

  • Requires ALL “single-use packaging” sold in CA to be recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2032.
    • “Single-use packaging” is defined as any covered material or package disposed of after a single use. While the bill specifically calls out plastic, the legislation encompasses any solid waste material including aluminum, paper, etc.
  • Recycle rates for single-use plastic packaging must meet the following:
    • Minimum 30% recycle rate by 2028
    • Minimum 40% recycle rate by 2030
    • Minimum 65% recycle rate by 2032
  • A civil penalty of up to $50,000 per day, per violation can be imposed on any entity not in compliance.
  • Businesses will be able to capitalize on Incentives that have been written into the law. Available Incentives will include the use of certified compostable materials, the use of recycled content and others.

Extended Producer Responsibility

SB54 establishes a fee-based Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) program for all single-use packaging sold into California. The goal of the program is to generate funds for infrastructure addressing end-of-life solutions for both recycling and composting of single-use packaging.

“Producers” will be assessed “eco-modulated fees,” or fees based on weight and net recycling costs of single-use packaging.

A “Producer” is defined as any business that manufactures, distributes, imports or sells products in the state of California where the product is covered by or contained in single-use packaging.

Source Reduction by 2032

A 25% source reduction of plastic covered material will be required by 2032. Per the bill, over half of this reduction can be accomplished through concentrating, right-sizing, optimization or shifting to bulk or large formats for single-use packaging. The bill includes a provision that allows for up to 8% of this requirement to be met based on the use of post-consumer recycled (PCR) material.

Program Management and Monitoring

Oversight of SB 54 will be managed by CalRecycle, California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, a branch of the California Environmental Protection Agency.

The bill calls for the creation of a PRO (Producer Responsibility Organization) which will report into CalRecycle. The role of the PRO will be to raise $500 million annually to contribute to the California Plastic Pollution Mitigation fund. A plan will be developed including:

  • Further defining a “Producer”
  • Detailing EPR fees and civil penalties from non-compliance
  • Creation of programs for monitoring and compliance

SB 54 Program Timeline


SB54: The Benchmark for Future Legislation

While SB 54 is focused on California, it is a focal point across the nation and could be the catalyst for future legislation across the country. Colorado and Oregon have already adopted some form of packaging EPR legislation and it is anticipated that Hawaii and Washington will consider legislation in 2023.

Staying Ahead of the Curve

As a result of SB54, investing in sustainable packaging will no longer be an option, but a necessity. With growing consumer interest driving legislation forward, now is the time to act.

While the new legislation may sound daunting, solutions already exist in the marketplace. Plastic materials like Great American Packaging’s recyclable PE films and compostable films fit within the legislative requirements of SB 54. Additionally, new and innovative solutions continue to be introduced. Great American Packaging is here to help you navigate the latest legislation and utilize it to stay ahead of the curve. As the industry evolves, we will ensure your packaging remains compliant and capitalizes on consumer interests and trends.

To learn more about how we can help you through this transition, reach out to one of our packaging experts today! Give us a call at 323-582-2247 or click the button below.