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The Lottery No One Wants to Win: The Rigid Plastic Packaging Container Act Compliance Certification Is Coming

California’s Rigid Plastic Packaging Container Act is intended to reduce the amount of plastic waste disposed of in California landfills and to increase the use of post-consumer content in plastic packaging.  The law requires manufacturers of products held in rigid plastic packaging containers (RPPCs) to comply with certain requirements to achieve these goals, like source reduction or using post-consumer material content.  Under new regulations effective 2013, CalRecycle will select certain product manufacturers by March 31 of every year to certify compliance.  The compliance certifications are due April 1 of the following year.  That means that product manufacturers selected by CalRecycle in March of 2014 will be required to submit their compliance certifications by April 1, 2015.  CalRecycle expects to notify the selected product manufacturers in mid-March this year.

Compliance certification is a laborious process requiring mathematical calculations using CalRecyle’s formulas for demonstrating compliance with one or more of the regulatory compliance options.  The information necessary to demonstrate compliance is not always in the product manufacturer’s possession; it may be necessary to get that information from packaging suppliers.  That means that product manufacturers already should have in place an arrangement with their suppliers for that flow of information.  Care should be taken to protect trade secret or other confidential business information in any submissions to CalRecycle.

Notably, not all plastic packages are RPPCs under the law, and not all RPPCs are subject to the law’s requirements.

  • Among other requirements, RPPCs must be relatively inflexible in shape, hold its shape while holding other products and have a minimum of 8 fluid ounces and a maximum of 5 gallons of capacity.
  • Among the exempted RPPCs are those containing products regulated under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, as well as those containing drugs, medical devices, foods, cosmetics and infant formula as defined in the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Timelines for claiming exemptions and other relief are short.  Penalties for noncompliance may be substantial.  Any company receiving a CalRecycle certification notice must examine it immediately, and carefully, to determine what obligations, if any, it has under the law.

Ms. Grimaldi maintains a diverse environmental law practice focusing on chemical and product regulation and litigation defense. Her practice areas include Proposition 65, California's Safer Consumer Products Regulations, California's Rigid Plastic Packaging Container Act and the federal Toxic Substances Control Act. Ms. Grimaldi graduated from the University of California Hastings College of the Law magna cum laude and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Bacteriology from University of California, Davis. Prior to attending law school, she worked as a research assistant in laboratories at the University of California, San Francisco Cancer Research Institute and at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.