Packaging comprises about 25 percent of materials landfilled in California. The packaging material stream is diverse and includes materials such as plastics #1-7, paper, cardboard, aluminum, glass, and layered packaging that combines multiple materials into difficult-to-recycle items. CalRecycle estimates that recycling 75 percent of disposed packaging would reduce greenhouse gas emissions equal to removing 3.2 million cars from the road every year.

CalRecycle Packaging Programs

The department’s multi-pronged approach to managing packaging focuses on specific products such as certain beverage containers, non-food rigid plastic packaging products, trash bags, reusable grocery bags, and certain types of food service packaging. The department’s approach will continue to evolve to encourage recycling a wider range of packaging materials.

Rigid Plastic Packaging Container (RPPC) Program

California’s Rigid Plastic Packaging Container (RPPC) law was enacted in 1991 as part of an effort to reduce the amount of plastic waste disposed in California landfills and to increase the use of postconsumer recycled plastic.

Producers of certain plastic packaging containers have flexibility to comply with the law in different ways by meeting one of the available compliance options, including:

  • Using 25 percent postconsumer material
  • Source reduction
  • Using a reusable or refillable container
  • Use of a plastic container meeting a 45 percent recycling rate
  • Alternative compliance methods

Sustainable Packaging for the State of California Act

Single-use food service packaging is a significant component of California’s packaging waste stream. Single-use products can contaminate recycling and composting streams, making it harder to recycle truly recyclable items. They can also contribute to environmental pollution and pose public health risks.

The groundbreaking law requires food service facilities located in a state-owned facility, a concessionaire on state-owned property, or a business under contract to a provide food service to a state agency to dispense prepared food using food service packaging that is reusable, recyclable, or compostable. The Act further requires the department to establish criteria and a process for determining the types of food service packaging that are reusable, recyclable, or compostable.

Archived Rulemaking Information

Packaging Reform

Over the past decade, CalRecycle has conducted an extensive series of workshops and held meetings with industry stakeholders to identify approaches for reducing the landfilling of all types of packaging materials. These efforts engaged stakeholders across the packaging value chain to identify and explore opportunities for a comprehensive packaging management strategy in California. CalRecycle continues to stay engaged with stakeholders on evolving packaging policy.

Packaging Timeline