In 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law into effect that impacts any business that uses or sells single-use plastic. If it achieves its goals, the Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act (SB 54) could help eliminate approximately 23 million tons of single-use plastics throughout the next 10 years. It’s considered the most comprehensive and ambitious plastic reduction law in the United States to date.
If your company's involved or impacted by the plastics supply chain in Calfiornia, here's what you need to know about SB 54, as well as key takeaways for your environmental compliance strategy.
The Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act:
Plastic polution has many negative human and environmental impacts, including microplastics contamination in foods, and major harm to oceans and aquatic wildlife
The law went into effect June 30, 2022. This gives the plastics industry roughly 10 years to comply with its full requirements if they want to sell, import, or distribute in the world’s fifth largest economy. Companies have six years to achieve the 'at least 30% of plastic from recycled or composted materials' requirement.
While California already has laws aimed at reducing plastic pollution, SB 54 directly targets the following groups:
More broadly, local recycling programs will also require recycling services providers to provide certain information about plastic waste to CalRecycle. This includes:
If your organization falls under any of these categories, there are several ways you can stay, or become, compliant.
Since the new law requires the plastics industry to both make less plastic and to ensure that all single-use products are recyclable or compostable, it’s important to understand what needs to be prioritized.
Let’s quickly break down two important terms, as defined by the SB 54:
Staying compliant is a two step process:
Brightest helps hundreds of companies measure Scope 1, 2, and 3 GHG emissions and track other key environmental compliance KPIs like water, waste, and plastic
For organizations in the early stages of their sustainability reporting and plastic reduction journey, we have a few general recommendations, additional reading, and suggested next steps:
Materiality assessment - Before collecting any data, you need to audit your company's role in the plastics supply chain and conduct a “Materiality Assessment” to determine the most material environmental impacts from your business. A materiality assessment is a project which determines and ranks the most material themes for your business based on market data, regulatory analysis, stakeholder interviews, and surveys. For example, a restaurant might focus on food waste, eliminating plastic bottles, GHG emissions from food deliveries, and reducing energy usage from operations. A retailer might prioritize replacing plastic products in the context of its broader sustainability and products strategy. Pick and rank the right sustainability themes depending on your organization’s mission, sector, model, and ESG maturity.
Sustainability data systems and process - While this might go without saying, in order to report your organization's sustainability performance and plastic usage, you need to know what it is - with a high degree of accuracy. Your materiality process can help guide you toward the main sustainability themes you may need to focus on and collect data around. Is it plastic you're selling? Plastic materials from suppliers? Where does that data exist today, and how will you access or collect it?
Many organizations start their sustainability reporting and tracking with relatively simple spreadsheets, surveys, and documents, but things can get complex fast - particularly for larger companies. If you're an organization with a medium-to-large or complex environmental footprint, you likely need dedicated sustainability reporting and data management software, like the kind we design here at Brightest to help organizations stay compliant. Ongoing report archiving, version control, and governance are also important to think about, since you'll be reporting every year.