N.J. state capitol.

Legislators in New Jersey approved recycled-content mandates for containers and bags made from several materials. | Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock

A bill establishing minimum post-consumer recycled plastic, glass and paper use in containers and bags was approved by the New Jersey Senate last month.

New Jersey Senate No. 2515 establishes recycled-content requirements for “rigid plastic containers, glass containers, paper and plastic carryout bags, and plastic trash bags.” The bill also prohibits the sale of polystyrene loose-fill packaging, otherwise known as packing peanuts.

The Senate approved the bill on a 22-14 vote on June 24. The vote fell largely along party lines, with all but one Democrat voting in favor and all but two Republicans voting against.

The proposal requires rigid plastic non-beverage containers to include an average of 25% post-consumer resin (PCR) by two years after the bill takes effect. Three years after that, the percentage requirement increases by 5 percentage points, and that will continue every three years until it hits 50%. Non-beverage food containers are exempt for five years, but would then be covered under the law.

Plastic beverage containers will be required to include an average of 15% PCR two years after the bill takes effect, also increasing by 5 percentage points every three years until the mandate hits 50%.

The bill exempts labels, caps, closures and other items affixed to containers. Refillable and reusable containers are also exempt from the PCR requirements. Several specific beverages are exempt, including milk products, plant-based milk substitutes, medical food or infant formula.

For glass containers, the bill requires 35% post-consumer recycled content by two years after the bill takes effect. However, if a manufacturer certifies that its recycled content is made up of at least 50% mixed-color cullet, the usage requirement is lowered to 25% post-consumer content.

Paper bags will need to include 40% post-consumer recycled content within two years after the bill takes effect. Bags that hold eight pounds or less will have a lower requirement, at 20% post-consumer recycled content.

Plastic bags are required to include at least 20% PCR within two years, increasing to 40% after five years. Plastic trash bags will need to use 10% PCR within two years and 20% PCR after five years.

Under the terms of the proposal, manufacturers will be able to seek a waiver from the recycled content requirements if they can’t comply with the terms “due to inadequate availability of recycled material or a substantial disruption in the supply of recycled material,” among other scenarios.

The bill has moved into the state Assembly, where it was referred to the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee. It will ultimately require a vote of the entire Assembly, and if approved it would move to the state’s governor for final approval.

A version of this story appeared in Plastics Recycling Update on June 30.

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