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New Jersey governor signs recycled-content bill into law

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has signed a bill into law that will establish postconsumer recycled-content requirements for rigid plastic containers, glass containers, paper and plastic carryout bags and plastic trash bags. The law also prohibits selling polystyrene loose fill packaging.

S2515/A4676 passed in the New Jersey Senate and Assembly Jan. 10, and Murphy signed it into law Jan. 18.

Under the law, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) is authorized to review and adjust any of the postconsumer recycled-content requirements based on changes in market conditions, availability of recycled material and capacity of recycling infrastructure.

“This measure is a multifaceted approach toward tackling the issues surrounding our recycled waste industry while also reducing the amount of microplastics introduced to the environment,” New Jersey Assembly members Annette Quijano, Mila Jasey and John McKeon write in a joint statement upon the passage of this bill. “Over the past few years, other countries such as China have decided to no longer buy most plastic waste content. New Jersey has an opportunity to enhance our market for plastics, and this bill will allow us to be at the forefront of a transitioning recycling industry.”

Recycling industry associations have expressed mixed views on S2515/A4676.

The Washington-based Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) has expressed support for S2515/A4676. ISRI states, “The passage of bill A4676 by the New Jersey State Assembly reflects a strong commitment to not only increase the use of recycled content in packaging materials but to develop a sustainable program with quantifiable metrics and realistic goals. This will help increase stakeholder commitment throughout the supply chain to ensure plastics are responsibly manufactured, collected and recycled into new products.

“ISRI is excited about the opportunity the passage of A4676 presents for the state of New Jersey, and we stand ready to provide essential third-party advice and technical expertise in plastics recycling and manufacturing.”

However, the Arlington, Virginia-based Glass Packaging Institute (GPI) opposed the legislation. GPI President Scott DeFife says the legislation is aimed primarily “at plastics issues” and unnecessarily includes what he calls “a flawed provision related to recycled content for glass sold in New Jersey.”

DeFife adds, “GPI’s opposition is based on what was not included in the bill, which omits any provision to effectively improve glass recycling in the state of New Jersey. The New Jersey bill took language from long-standing California law regarding glass containers made in California and incorporated it into a provision regarding glass sold in New Jersey.

“As we previously testified to the New Jersey legislature, the California requirement used in the bill is tied to the existence of the California Beverage Container Redemption program (CRV, or bottle bill) and was designed to ensure that glass collected through the CRV program is used by glass manufacturers in California,” DeFife continues. “There is no recycled-content requirement for glass merely sold in California. There is also no bottle bill in New Jersey or substantial supply of good, clean quality glass in or from New Jersey, elements required to achieve consistent recycled-content levels for manufacturing.”

He continues, “Instead, the bill sets up a costly bureaucratic program that will collect recycled-content data from international food and beverage manufacturers who sell products into the state of New Jersey that are packaged in glass.”

DeFife says it would be more useful for material recovery facilities (MRFs) and haulers to disclose how much of their recycled glass goes to landfill. He adds that GPI strongly disagrees with lawmakers’ claims that this new policy will fix New Jersey’s glass recycling efforts.

He concludes, “What should have been included in the New Jersey bill are policy changes that would put performance standards on facilities that process curbside recyclables because high residual contamination and poor quality make much of the state’s MRF glass unusable; additional support for infrastructure to create cleaner streams of glass if the MRFs are unable or unwilling to reduce contamination; and restrictions to keep New Jersey glass bottles and jars out of landfills.”