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Smith, Greenstein Bill to Require Recycled Content in Certain Products Passes Senate

Trenton  In an effort to address significant obstacles with recycling in New Jersey, the Senate passed legislation sponsored by Senators Bob Smith and Linda Greenstein to require a percentage of recycled content be included in the manufacturing of plastic and glass containers, plastic bottles, paper products, and plastic trash bags.


“Until recently, we sent the majority of our recyclables overseas to China to be processed. However, since they stopped accepting them, we have been left without a significant capacity to recycle,” said Senator Smith (D-Middlesex/Somerset), Chair of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. “Much of the paper, glass and aluminum we want to recycle is now being dumped in landfills creating higher costs for taxpayers. In order to address this serious dilemma, we would require manufacturers to use more recycled materials in their production of certain packages and containers. This will provide new markers for recyclables, preventing them from ending up in landfills, incinerators, waterways or the ocean.”


“Our environment is dependent upon our collective efforts as a society to preserve its viability for generations to come,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex), Vice-Chair of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. “Senator Smith and I have been working tirelessly to figure out ways to quickly grow our recycling industry, and this legislation will be key in making that a reality. We want to emphasize the importance of utilizing recycled materials during the manufacturing of everyday products, and underscore New Jersey’s steadfast commitment to a greener future.”


Under the bill, S-2515, any rigid plastic containers sold or used in New Jersey would be required to contain at least 25 percent recycled material. Plastic bottles would have to contain at least 15 percent recycled material. Every three years after going into effect, the recycled content requirement for rigid plastic containers and plastic bottles would increase by five percent until capping out at 50 percent.


In addition, glass containers sold or used in New Jersey would be required to contain at least 35 percent recycled material. However, if a manufacturer is able to prove to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that its use of recycled content is made up of at least 50 percent mixed-color cullet, which is recycled, broken or waste glass used in glassmaking, then glass containers would only be required to contain 25 percent recycled content.


Moreover, all paper carryout bags sold or used in New Jersey would be required to contain at least 40 percent recycled content. However, a paper carryout bag that holds eight pounds or less would only be required to contain at least 20 percent recycled content. In addition, all plastic carryout bags sold or used in New Jersey would be required to contain at least 20 percent recycled content beginning two years after the effective date, and 40 percent recycled content beginning five years after the effective date.


Furthermore, the bill would require plastic trash bags to contain 10 percent recycled material after two years, and 20 percent recycled material beginning five years after the bill’s effective date.


Lastly, a person would be prohibited from selling any polystyrene loose fill packaging, commonly known as packing peanuts.


The bill would exempt food packaging, not including beverage containers, for a period of five years. Packages that contain milk products, medical food and infant formula would be permanently exempt from the recycled content requirements in the bill.


Manufacturers that are unable to meet the requirements of the bill could apply to the DEP for a waiver or reduction in the recycled content requirements if it is not technologically feasible for them to meet the requirements or there is inadequate availability of recycled content or a substantial disruption in the supply of material. This would also include manufacturers who cannot achieve the postconsumer recycled content requirements and remain in compliance with another state or federal law, rule or regulation. These waivers would be granted for a period of at least two years, and the DEP would have the discretion to extend them thereafter.


The bill was released from the Senate by a vote of 24-14.