On Monday, the governor of California approved a bill aimed at reducing deceptive and misleading environmental marketing claims in the state, specifically focusing on the use of recycling or “chasing arrows” emblems. The bill amends Sections 17580 and 17580.5 of the state’s Business and Professions Code – which currently address environmental marketing claims generally.
It states that “a product or packaging that displays a chasing arrows symbol, a chasing arrows symbol surrounding a resin identification code, or any other symbol or statement indicating the product or packaging is recyclable, or otherwise directing the consumer to recycle the product or packaging, is deemed to be a deceptive or misleading claim pursuant to this section and Section 17580.5 of the Business and Professions Code unless the product or packaging is considered recyclable in the state” pursuant to certain criteria enacted by the state’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, and “is of a material type and form that routinely becomes feedstock used in the production of new products or packaging.”
The bill directs the state’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery to publish standards on or before January 1, 2024 (and to update them every 5 years) regarding what sorts of material types/forms are considered recyclable – which would include, based on the information published by the department, products/packaging that are of a material type/form “collected for recycling by recycling programs for jurisdictions that collectively encompass at least 60% of the population of the state, among other statewide recyclability criteria.”
The law applies to all consumer goods and packaging sold in the state, but will not apply to (1) any product or packaging that is manufactured up to 18 months after the date the department publishes the aforementioned standards (or updates those standards, provided that it would have met the pre-existing standards before the update), or (2) those that are covered by other state recycling laws such as certain kinds of batteries and beverage containers.
What does this mean for marketers? Come 2024, California's new stricter standard will likely become the rule to meet when it comes to recyclability. While the FTC's Green Guides provide federal-level guidance (key word, "guidance") on environmental marketing, state environmental marketing laws offer a patchwork of restrictions, resulting (similar to/as has been the case with privacy legislation), in the largest most-restrictive states setting the tone for the space overall.