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The problem is not unique to California. In 2018, almost one in three pounds of what went into Ontarians’ blue bins should not be there, said Canada Fibers. This contamination can also ruin clean and recyclable products in the waste stream. Photo credit: SGr, stock.adobe.com

California officials say they’re looking to end the often seen three-arrow recycling symbols that exist on most products despite the fact that they are far from actually recyclable in local collection programs.

The California Assembly passed the major labeling bill (SB-343) last week in a move that could force manufacturers using the recycling symbol to go through a state-led certification process and stop clogging the recycling system due to false advertising.

Lawmakers said that the clarification will reduce contamination in the state’s recycling system and enable consumers to make more informed choices.

The Statewide Commission on Recycling Markets and Curbside Recycling recently reported: “Since consumers equate the ‘recycle’ word and symbol with what is accepted in curbside recycling bins, the ‘recycle’ word and symbol must be reserved for materials which are accepted in curbside bins and do not cause contamination.”

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California may only grant a product use of the chasing arrows symbol if it is collected in curbside programs that cover at least 60% of the state’s population and is sorted into defined streams and reclaimed at facilities.

State agency CalRecycle would produce a recyclable materials list by 2024 and give manufacturers 18 months to get their products in compliance by changing any “deceptive or misleading” language or symbols. The list would also ensure that the proposed recyclable material is routinely sold to manufacturers to make new products.

The new bill expands the existing “Truth in Environmental Advertising” law in California, where less than 15% of single-use plastic is actually recaptured.

Of course, the problem exists in Canada, too. In 2018, the executive vice-president of major recycling firm Canada Fibers said that almost one in three pounds of what goes into Ontarians’ blue bins should not be there. This contamination can also ruin products in the stream that are already clean and recyclable.

The Truth in Labeling for Recyclable Materials bill passed an Assembly floor vote 50 to 3. The bill is expected to clear the California Senate later this week and be signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom.

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