California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

Rigid Plastic Packaging Container (RPPC) Program

Frequently Asked Questions

The information provided on this webpage is an overview of the Rigid Plastic Packaging Container (RPPC) law and regulations; it does not replace the requirements specified within them. Always refer to the full text of the regulations and Statute, to ensure full compliance.

Are the three phases of the certification process (registration, precertification, and compliance certification) all self-certifications?

Yes. All phases of the certification process including registration, precertification, and compliance certification are self-certification. CalRecycle will review the certifications submitted for compliance with the RPPC laws and retains the right to audit any response.

What is the selection process for precertification and compliance certification?

The criteria that will be used in selecting companies to be certified are listed in 14CCR section 17945.1 (c). This section was developed to address concerns raised by stakeholders regarding the process CalRecycle will use to select product manufacturers to include within a certification cycle.

Three categories in the hierarchy listed in 14CCR section 17945.1 (c) may be used to select product manufacturers in any given cycle. In the future, CalRecycle decision makers will determine the number and proportions of companies in each category that are selected to certify compliance. The proportions in each category may change from year to year.

What are the limits associated with the 25 percent postconsumer material compliance option?

The RPPC statute limits what is considered postconsumer materials (Public Resources Code (PRC) section 42301 (g)) and regulations clarify statute through 14CCR section 17943 (q) which reads:

"Postconsumer Material (PCM)" means a material that would otherwise be destined for solid waste disposal, having completed its intended end-use and product life cycle.

  1. Rigid plastic packaging containers holding obsolete or unsold products that are commonly disposed, and not commonly reused within an original manufacturing process, shall be considered postconsumer material when used as feedstock for new rigid plastic packaging containers or under the alternative compliance method in section 17944.1.
  2. Finished plastic packaging that has been rejected by a container or product manufacturer, and that is commonly disposed, may be considered postconsumer material if it is later used in a process other than the original manufacturing and fabrication process.
  3. Postconsumer material does not include materials and by-products generated from, and commonly reused within, an original manufacturing and fabrication process.

14CCR section 17943 (q) addresses issues relating to product manufacturers that claim credit for use of post-industrial scrap that was reused within the manufacturing process and was not commonly disposed.

How would a product manufacturer claim the postconsumer material compliance option?

A product manufacturer can use postconsumer material as a means of compliance through:

  1. Postconsumer Material Content Compliance
    The postconsumer material content compliance option is detailed in sections 14CCR 17944 and 14CCR 17945.3 (d)(1). This option requires an RPPC to be made from at least 25 percent postconsumer material. Subsections 14CCR 17945.3 (a), (b), (c), and (d)(1) clarify the information to be submitted when claiming this option.
  2. Alternative Container Compliance Method
    The Alternative Container Compliance Method is detailed in 14CCR section 17944.1. This option may be used by a product manufacturer to demonstrate compliance through its own actions or those of another company under the same corporate ownership during a compliance period.

What would CalRecycle require as documentation to demonstrate compliance with a selected container compliance option?

The regulations set the standards and each product manufacturer evaluates its particular practices for obtaining postconsumer resins or packaging containers and selects the evidence it believes demonstrates compliance.

A product manufacturer should be prepared to provide documentation such that, should CalRecycle ask for supporting documentation of compliance, the product manufacturer is prepared to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it complied with the selected RPPC compliance option.

How does a product manufacturer determine its baseline or base year?

The only container compliance option needing a baseline or base year is the source reduction option. A product manufacturer that chooses to comply with the program requirements by electing to use the source reduction option must provide documentation sufficient to prove its base year.

Claims regarding product base year will be evaluated by CalRecycle on a case-by-case basis during a compliance certification cycle. Determinations regarding the base year will be made based on actual California sales and without regard to whether or not a product was covered by prior CalRecycle regulations.

Base year determinations are made per PRC section 42301, subsection (j)(1) which, in part, states:

"Source reduced container" means either of the following:

  1. A rigid plastic packaging container for which the manufacturer seeks compliance as of
    January 1, 1995, whose package weight per unit or use of product has been reduced by 10 percent when compared with the packaging used for that product by the manufacturer from January 1, 1990, to December 31, 1994.
  2. A rigid plastic container for which the manufacturer seeks compliance after January 1, 1995, whose package weight per unit or use of product has been reduced by 10 percent when compared with one of the following:
  1. The packaging used for the product by the manufacturer on January 1, 1995.
  2. The packaging used for that product by the manufacturer over the course of the first full year of commerce in this state.

Products utilizing the source reduction option under PRC section 42301, subsection (j)(1)(b)(iii) are not using a "base year" to compare the product with prior packaging. Instead, product manufacturers are basing the source reduction from "packaging used in commerce that same year for similar products whose containers have not been considered source reduced." (Id., emphasis added.)

The regulations allow a product manufacturer to achieve compliance based on averaging. Would you please explain the averaging option?

"Averaging" is a compliance calculation method that allows a product manufacturer with multiple container lines to organize its compliance certification based on products or container sizes. For example, a product manufacturer may sell the same product in a one-quart PET, half-gallon PET, and one-gallon PET RPPCs. Rather than determining compliance for three separate lines, the product manufacturer may wish to consolidate the individual container lines into one product group and use an averaging method to determine 25 percent postconsumer material compliance.

How can I request an Advisory Opinion?

Advisory opinions or container determinations are available to product manufacturers that meet specific criteria. Only product manufacturers that have received a notice from CalRecycle to submit either a precertification or a compliance certification can request an advisory opinion.

Following receipt of a precertification or compliance certification notice, a product manufacturer has 90 calendar days to submit an advisory opinion request to CalRecycle. Advisory opinions are very complex and must take into account several factors; each advisory opinion request must be documented and is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Note that container manufacturers may not request an advisory opinion as they are not directly responsible for meeting the requirements of the law.

What is the definition of a relatively inflexible container?

Statute says that one characteristic of an RPPC is a relatively inflexible shape or form. PRC section 42301 (f) states:

(f) "Rigid plastic packaging container" means any plastic package having a relatively inflexible finite shape or form, with a minimum capacity of eight fluid ounces or its equivalent volume and a maximum capacity of five fluid gallons or its equivalent volume, that is capable of maintaining its shape while holding other products, including, but not limited to, bottles, cartons, and other receptacles, for sale or distribution in the state.

The definition of an RPPC in the regulation clarifies the statue. Specifically 14CCR section 17943, subsection (aa)(3) states:

(3) A plastic packaging container shall be considered to have a "relatively inflexible or finite shape or form" if:

  1. It has essentially the same shape empty as full. A plastic packaging container may be considered to have the same shape empty as full even if it is designed to be folded or collapsed into a more compact form when not holding a product, such as, but not limited to, collapsible acetate boxes or tubes; and
  2. It is not flexible plastic packaging composed entirely of film plastic as defined by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D6988.8 Guidelines for film plastic. Examples include, but are not limited to, grocery and merchandise carryout bags, pouches, or bubble, shrink, or stretch wrap.

What is considered a blister package?

Based on the blister packaging examples presented to CalRecycle, a blister package or blister packaging is composed of:

  • A molded plastic form or tray; and
  • A nonplastic backing or covering (examples: chipboard, cardboard, paperboard, ferrous or nonferrous metal, etc.).

When the packaging is assembled, the plastic form is affixed to the non-plastic backing or covering (example photo).

CalRecycle discussed blister packaging and the assembly methods related to blister packaging during the regulation development. CalRecycle reached out to industries including, but not limited to: Cleaning and janitorial supplies, electronics, hardware, information technology, medical, pharmaceutical, tools, and toys. CalRecycle also involved container manufacturers in the discussions.

Can a container manufacturer determine or guarantee my product’s RPPC compliance?

No, a container manufacturer cannot make a determination of compliance. However, product manufacturers may need to rely on container manufacturers to collect and maintain documentation needed to support compliance. Upon request a container manufacturer shall provide certification information. 14 CCR section 17945.4 outlines the minimum certification information that must be provided.

Can a container manufacturer receive an Advisory Opinion?

No. The RPPC program is product-specific, as outlined in the regulations (14 CCR section 17945.3). Advisory opinions are available to product manufacturers that meet specific criteria. Only product manufacturers that have received a notice from CalRecycle to submit either a precertification or a compliance certification can request an advisory opinion.

Has CalRecycle certified any container manufacturers as being complaint?

No. Containers manufacturers cannot be certified as being compliant. The RPPC program is product-specific, as outlined in the regulations (14 CCR section 17945.3). Container determinations are very complex requiring CalRecycle to take into account several factors which must be documented by the product manufacturer and evaluated on a case-by case basis. Only product manufacturers that have received a notice from CalRecycle to submit either a precertification or a compliance certification can request an advisory opinion.

Last updated: April 17, 2014
Rigid Plastic Packaging Containers: http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/Plastics/RPPC/
Contact: RPPC@calrecycle.ca.gov (916) 341-6717