In the realm of consumer goods, the chasing arrows symbol has long been regarded as a beacon of environmental responsibility, guiding shoppers towards eco-friendly choices. However, whether a product is conceivably recyclable and whether a product is likely to actually be recycled, based on the availability of recycling collection and processing services, are two very different things. Therefore, California legislators enacted Senate Bill 343 ("SB 343"), which aims to ensure that recycling labels accurately reflect the recyclability of products and their packaging.

Understanding SB 343

Aptly nicknamed the "Truth in Recycling" law, SB 343 establishes stringent criteria for labeling products as recyclable in California. Under this law, the chasing arrows symbol or any indication of recyclability cannot grace product packaging unless specific conditions are met. These conditions mandate that materials must be both (i) collected for recycling by jurisdiction programs covering at least 60% of the state's population and (ii) sorted into defined streams for recycling processing by large volume transfer/processing facilities serving at least 60% of recycling programs statewide.

The law also directed the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) to conduct a statewide analysis at material recovery facilities in 2023 to identify which materials are commonly collected, sorted, sold, or transferred for recycling in California. The law also requires ongoing studies to make updates to the statewide analysis, with the second study being completed by 2027 and with future studies every five years after that.

CalRecycle's SB 343 Preliminary Findings Report

CalRecycle's report provides a comprehensive understanding of California's recycling ecosystem through data collection and analysis. Two primary data collection efforts were undertaken:

  1. Collection by Jurisdiction Recycling Programs: CalRecycle gathered information on materials accepted for recycling by jurisdiction recycling programs across the state. This involved extensive Internet research on materials collection by each jurisdiction's curbside recycling programs, covering a vast array of materials from glass and metal to plastics and fiber.
  2. Materials Recovered by Large Volume Transfer/Processors (LVTPs): Surveying facility visits and material sorting at LVTPs were conducted to estimate the proportions of materials sorted into defined streams for recycling processing. Through phone surveys and in-person visits to 37 LVTPs, data was collected on facility operations, material origins, outflows, and sorting technologies.

Stakeholders can submit comments via email to The deadline for submitting comments related to the SB 343 Preliminary Findings Report is February 29, 2024. CalRecycle will incorporate the public feedback and publish a final report within sixty days of the public workshop.

New Reporting Requirements

CalRecycle is also responsible for updating regulations to require that material management facilities and operations report regularly through CalRecycle's Recycling and Disposal Reporting System as to (i) how materials are collected or processed in the state and (ii) which material types and forms facilities recover and do not consider contaminants.

What's Next

Although previously existing laws made it illegal to use deceptive labeling on products, central to SB 343 is the reliance on objective data to substantiate recycling claims. Manufacturers, distributors, and retailers must now substantiate their recycling claims with empirical evidence derived from the state's recycling infrastructure.

Manufacturers in particular play a strategic role in ensuring the products they sell are recycled at the end of their useful life. SB 343 will provide information to these businesses so that they can accurately label their products to help consumers easily identify what is and what is not recyclable in California.

Manufacturers will have eighteen months from the publication of each study to ensure the updated information supports their use of the chasing arrows symbol on their products.

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