Although overall state-wide trends are difficult to ascertain, it is clear that the beverage industry must quickly adapt and invest in their processes to meet these new requirements.
That said, the review did identify companies with significant and already-established plastic-related commitments, such as Niagara Bottling, Nestle, PepsiCo, Whole Foods, Danone and Coca-Cola which reported R-PET rates at 53%, 36%, 24%, 20%, 20% and 19% respectively. Such commitments represent critical steps forwards for the entire plastic production supply chain to meet its plastic reduction commitments and create a more sustainable option.
A global push forward
As seen with the new AB 793 regulation, markets globally have been increasingly introducing regulatory measures as the environmental risks of plastic have grown – with China, the European Union, and the US as the most proactive players.
China has put in place legislation to ban certain categories of single-use plastic, increasing in quantity and intensity until 2025, with the purpose of reducing consumption. The categories of plastic being targeted include plastic bags, tableware, e-commerce packaging, and single-use hospitality items.
Over 300 local laws and ordinances similar to California’s plastic bottle policy – albeit less extreme – have been adopted by 22 US states and Washington D.C. But although the US has a diverse set of municipal and state-wide policies, there are currently none at a federal level.
That said, there are five main pieces of legislation submitted to the Supreme Court that address single-use plastic and its environmental risks – they are similar in scope and scale to policies enacted in the EU and could be a momentous step in the right direction for the US.
Often the global leader in environmental policy, the EU has numerous laws in place. For example, in December 2017, EU member states and the European Parliament agreed on new plastic waste rules, including recycling 55% of all plastic packaging waste by 2030 and improving extended producer responsibility mechanisms. Other policies include targets to reduce littering, and a plastic waste levy beginning in January 2021 that will charge each nation country a fee on non-recycled plastic packaging waste.
California’s introduction of the world’s toughest plastic bottle recycling legislature has placed it on the map as a global leader. This has the potential to act as a strong motivator for other policymakers to implement measures that mitigate the environmental risk of plastic. Policymakers should put regulatory pressure on the industry to introduce sustainable practices, to hold companies and investors responsible and learn from stakeholders on how to improve the industry.
With plastic waste expected to double from 150 million currently to 300 million metric tonnes by 2040, there is an immediate need for governments to actively encourage and work with plastic production companies to ensure that they are aligned with sustainability targets and on track to meaningfully support a circular economy.
Finally, the new Biden U.S. administration, coupled with the recently announced US Plastics Pact coalition, might result in expanding the U.S. bottle-to-bottle market that currently in California finds R-PET nearly at USD 300 per tonne above virgin PET. Bloomberg New Energy Finance also forecasts that the Biden administration will be supportive of the Break Free from Plastics Pollution Act that drew 90 co-sponsors in Congress. According to Bloomberg, the act would improve the enabling policy conditions to dramatically increase U.S. plastics recycling rates.