A trio of environmental measures recently signed into law in California have the potential for profound effects on food packaging.
The first two potentially could restrict the kinds of containers that can legally use the “chasing arrows” symbol to denote recyclability. The third bans the use of so-called “forever chemicals” used as coatings for some forms of fiber-based packaging.
Under the law, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom Oct. 5, a state agency must conduct a study by Jan. 1, 2024, to determine what can be called “recyclable” in California. One of the biggest complaints of recyclers is that consumer goods companies put the chasing-arrows logo on containers that have little or no chance of being recycled, such as packages made from layers of different polymers. Opponents are afraid that the standard will exclude too many forms of packaging.
Similarly, another measure would prohibit packaging from being labeled “compostable” if it contains chemicals that would contaminate the compost.
“It shouldn’t be a difficult concept: if it says ‘recyclable,’ that means you should be able to put it in the recycling bin, and if it says ‘compostable,’ you should be able to put it in the composting bin,” a spokesperson for Californians Against Waste told AP News.
Newsom also signed another law banning the use of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), sometimes called “forever chemicals” because of their resistance to breakdown. These have been linked by studies to cancer and other maladies. They’re sometimes used as coatings for paper and paperboard packaging because of their moisture and grease resistance, as well as appearing in durable goods like non-stick pans and children’s toys and furniture.