Laws being proposed in two US states could require containers made from biodegradable or compostable plastic to be labelled 'non-recyclable'.
Filed last month, the proposed laws – House Bill 315 (HB315), introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly, and Senate Bill 298 and House Bill 468, introduced in the Alabama Legislature – would prevent any plastic containers, including beverage bottles, sold or distributed in those states from being labelled compostable, biodegradable or degradable unless the container is also clearly marked “not recyclable, do not recycle.”
In Alabama, the proposed law would also require containers to comply with the Federal Trade Commission's Green Guides before claiming to be compostable, biodegradable or degradable.
All three bills are currently in committee. If passed, they would go into effect from 1 July next year.
The proposed laws would cover resins containing degradable additives, as well as compostable bioresins like polylactic acid. They aim to prevent contamination of the plastics recycling stream and protect what has become a robust and growing industry in the south east part of the US, said regional recycling experts.
“We came to the conclusion that we had this very important part of our economy that we needed to protect, that we needed to grow, and we didn't want anything to slow that growth down,” said Scott Mouw, state recycling programme director in North Carolina.
More than 6,000 people in the south east US work in manufacturing businesses that depend on using recycled plastic feedstock to make consumer-ready goods, and around 60 facilities in the region contribute $3bn (£2bn) in value to the domestic economy, according to the Southeast Recycling Development Council, a non-profit coalition of 11 states including North Carolina and Alabama.
In North Carolina, the recycling industry employs more than 15,000 and includes numerous plastic bottle reclaimers and manufacturers that use recycled plastic, according to HB 315.