Do You Comply with CalRecycle?


TAMPA BAY, Fla.-California is cracking down on plastic packaging, but many lubricant manufacturers and packagers are unaware or uncertain of their obligation under CalRecycles Rigid Plastic Packaging Container regulation.

California is moving in the direction of being anti-plastic, and the state is going after packaging in particular, attorney Randy Pollack told the Petroleum Packaging Council spring meeting in March. Pollack gave an update on the RPPC law, which took effect in January 2013. However, I can tell you right now that many manufacturers still have no idea about the law.

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The law, which was enacted in 1991, is enforced by Californias Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, known as CalRecycle. To reduce plastic waste and increase the usage of postconsumer materials, the law mandates that plastic containers holding between eight ounces and five gallons of product must either be made from at least 25 percent postconsumer material, have a recycling rate of at least 45 percent, be reusable at least five times, or have been source-reduced by 10 percent within the first year of being placed on the California market.

Aware that many responsible parties were in the dark about the law, the laws stakeholders made efforts as far back as 2007 to ensure that companies were alerted to the law and prepared to be compliant, Pollack said. However, despite changes in 2013 that were meant to make the law more apparent, Pollack said that many companies have ended up more frustrated. Pollack, of Sacramento-based Churchwell White, LLP, gave examples of some of the headaches the law has caused due to what he said are inefficient aspects of the program.

First, he noted that the parameters regarding which types of containers are covered have been blurry. In particular, changes in 2013 resulted in the law covering an additional 350 million containers, which opened a much larger pool of responsible companies. A lot of companies dont know whether their products are included or not. Originally, the law only applied to re-closeable containers. Under the 2013 [changes to the regulation], heat-sealed containers are now included, containers with metal handles are now included, and if the container can be folded or collapsed, its likely its included, Pollack said. Aside from plastic bags, almost everything out there is now included.

Next, he pointed out that the source reduction clause has been altered, despite his and others efforts to fight the change during the regulation writing process. Now, switching from one type of resin to another to reduce weight is no longer permissible.

For example, Pollack continued, one company said, I have a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pail. I can change this to polypropylene and reduce the weight by 20 to 30 percent, which would reduce plastic waste and be great for the state, but CalRecycle said, no, we want you to use more postconsumer resin, not just reduce the weight.

CalRecycle has acknowledged that the process-especially in regards to companies understanding the law-has not worked out well so far, Pollack pointed out. As a result, CalRecycle has introduced a pre-certification process, and companies will receive advance notice that they have been identified and may be audited.

However, many of these notices get lost in a pile of mail, Pollack noted, presenting a list of some of the 2,100 companies that were notified of their responsibility to comply in 2014 via a letter sent out in March 2013. Companies on Pollacks list included QuestVapco Corp. and Petro-Canada America Lubricants, Inc. Upon seeing the list, one PPC attendee told Lube Report that it was the first knowledge he had that his company was responsible for complying with the law.

Another round of letters was scheduled to be sent out last month, and compliance certifications must be completed by April 1, 2015. Basically, youre getting a years notice, Pollack said.

However, only companies who receive a letter are permitted to ask questions to determine if their products are under the law or not, and it must be within 90 days of letter receipt, which is a perfect example of the inefficient way that [CalRecycle] is operating, Pollack said. [It] doesnt make a whole lot of sense if were trying to educate product and container manufacturers trying to comply with the law.

Pollack pointed out that manufacturers of products sold in California are responsible for compliance, regardless of where the product was made. Container manufacturers are not liable. He also noted that penalties range from $5,000 to $50,000 per violation in addition to civil penalties of up to $50,000 per violation. Some companies — such as Sony, in the amount of $50,000 — have already been penalized.

More information on the RPPC is available at CalRecycles website.

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