In the past year, California residents used more than 12 billion plastic beverage bottles, according to data collected by CalRecycle, with many of those containers having little recyclable materials.
That led Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) to introduce a bill that would require plastic beverage containers in the state to have at least 10 percent post-consumer recycled plastic content beginning in 2021, and at least 25 percent by 2025. Additionally, by, 2030, plastic beverage containers sold in California must contain a minimum of 50 percent post-consumer recycled plastic.
AB 792, as it’s known in the legislature, would apply to bottles currently covered under the California Redemption Value program, including those used for soda, fruit drinks, and water.
According to a spokesperson for CalRecycle, manufacturers of beverage containers who do not meet the minimum recyclable content requirements established by AB 792 will be subject to civil penalties, calculated based upon the amount, in pounds, of plastic bottles that do not meet the minimum content requirements.
The bill is currently waiting for the Governor’s signature.
A spokesperson for Nestlé Waters North America (NSWA), told FQS that the company supported the passage of Assembly Bill 792 and has encouraged Governor Gavin Newsom to sign it into law.
The company currently uses 50 percent recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) in all of its individual-sized bottles of Arrowhead Brand Mountain Spring Water and Nestlé Pure Life Purified Water produced in California. Nationally, the company introduced a 700-ml immediate consumption bottle made from 100 percent rPET for its namesake Nestlé Pure Life brand and a 900-ml 100 percent rPET bottle for a new national offering called Poland Spring ORIGIN.
“Over the next 11 years, this new law will continue to increase the percentage of recycled content in plastic beverage containers sold in California—an important milestone in making the circular economy a reality in California,” the spokesperon says. “As one of the largest purchasers of food-grade postconsumer recycled plastic in the nation, we work with a variety of strategic suppliers of food-grade, post-consumer recycled plastic. As we continue to increase our usage, we will continue working with these suppliers, as well as identifying new strategic ones.”
An earlier version of AB 792 would have required 100 percent of recycled content by 2035, but the restrictions became more modest as the bill moved along in the California State Legislature.
Will Food Safety Be Impacted?
Katie Heil is a certified food safety professional at StateFoodSafety and notes that one of the most common concerns people have about plastic and food safety is the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in hard plastic.
“These concerns may have started in 2008, when the National Toxicology Program expressed concern that the levels of BPA consumed by the general U.S. population negatively affect fetuses, infants, and children,” she says.
Section 4 of the bill states: “For the purposes of this section, ‘bottle grade’ means a material that is safe and suitable for use as input for the manufacture of new plastic beverage containers.”
The section also includes a requirement that the containers meet “all state and federal health and safety standards for food.”
The NSWA spokesperson notes that the recycled content used in the company’s bottles is carefully collected, screened and sorted prior to entering the rPET manufacturing process. In addition, all of its suppliers are U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved suppliers of recycled content for food-contact packaging.
That is typically the case with beverage container manufacturers. The FDA has conducted research reviews and concluded that rPET containers do not pose health risks to consumers and do not leach harmful amounts of substances into their contents under foreseeable conditions of use. In order to get on that list, the company has to pass a series of scientific tests by the FDA. The tests have two main goals: 1) ensure that a minimal amount of substance is transferred to food and 2) establish that substances that may transfer to food pose no risk to human health.
“Bottled water is one of the most extensively regulated packaged food products available,” he says. “Since bottled water is regulated as a food product, it has to meet regulations beyond water quality. These are called ‘Good Manufacturing Practices,’ and they’re governed by the FDA. This ensures very high standards for quality and food safety for all of these products.”
The FDA has prepared a document entitled Guidance for Industry – Use of Recycled Plastics in Food Packaging: Chemistry Considerations that will assist manufacturers of beverage containers in evaluating processes for recycling plastic into packaging.