Rigid Plastic Packaging Containers
California’s Rigid Plastic Packaging Container Act, passed in 1991, requires that every rigid plastic packaging container (RPPC) meeting the defining criteria as outlined in the regulation and containing a product offered for sale in California must meet one of several options designed to reduce the amount of plastic in the solid waste stream. Since it its introduction in 1991, it has been periodically updated. The latest being a major update that came into effect January 1, 2013. In addition, several other states have also adopted similar regulations with even more considering them.
This fact sheet clarifies what is and isn’t an RPPC, who must comply with the law and how compliance is determined.
What is a rigid plastic packaging container (RPPC)?
A rigid plastic packaging container…
- Is made entirely of plastic, except for lids, caps, labels, handles, hinges and other incidental elements made of non-plastic material
- Is capable of at least one closure (including but not limited to closure during the production or manufacturing process…
- Maintains essentially the same shape empty or full.
- For liquids, is sold or offered for sale as containing at least 8 fluid ounces but no more than 5 gallons of liquid as labeled. Or, as an alternative, the product manufacturer may also choose to use the measured equivalent volume of the packaging (the volume of material the package is capable of holding) in making this determination of inclusion in the 8 US fluid oz-5 US gallon range. For products sold by weight or item count, the capacity must be determined as the equivalent volume.
RPPCs are not:
- Plastic blister packaging that does not fully enclose the product. (Such as blister covers on fiberboard card stock.)
- Flexible packaging composed entirely of film plastic (as determined by ASTM D 6988:08)
- Any rigid plastic container that is not capable of containing at least 8 fluid ounces as determined by equivalent volume. However, a product manufacturer may include (at their choice) a rigid plastic container that is sold, or offered for sale, containing a liquid product filled with less than eight (8) US fluid ounces as labeled if the bottle has an equivalent capacity over eight 8 US fluid ounces.
- A rigid plastic container sold, or offered for sale, that contains more than five (5) US gallons of a liquid product as labeled. However, a product manufacturer may include (at their choice) a rigid plastic container that is capable of holding more than five (5) US fluid gallons, but is sold, or offered for sale, filled with liquid contents of five (5) US gallons or less as labeled.
- Rigid plastic containers holding products which are sold by weight or count having an equivalent capacity less than eight (8) US fluid ounces or over five (50 US gallons.
Who must comply?
The “Product Manufacturer”, as defined in the regulation, is the party responsible for compliance. Product manufacture “means any person, partnership, association, corporation or any other entity that, through its own action or through contract or control, is primarily responsible for causing a a product to be produced that is held inside of a rigid plastic packaging container and sold or offered for sale in California.” This is defined as brand ownership; primary control or influence over the design of the product; and primary control or influence over the design specifications of the RPPC.
The revised RPPC regulation prescribes a two step compliance program including provisions for auditing and penalties for non-compliance of Product Manufacturers selling products in California that are subject to the regulation:
- Registration/Pre-Certification. When a company’s products are identified as being sold or offered for sale in RPPC in California, the manufacturer will be notified by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (the Department). The product manufacturer will then be required to register as prescribed in 17945.1(a) of the regulation. In addition, the Department may also issue a Pre-Certification Notice. In this case the Department will notify any selected manufacturers that they may be requested to certify compliance as prescribed in 17945.1(b).
- Compliance Certifications. As prescribed in Section 179.45.2, when notified by the Department a product manufacturer will then be required to provide certification of compliance for the products and packaging covered by the regulation, including any exemptions and waivers. This will include any required Container Manufacturer Certifications prescribed in Section 17945.4.
- Auditing. Section 17947 prescribes provisions in the regulation to allow the Department to audit the compliance certifications.
- Section 17949 of the regulation prescribes a schedule of enforcement penalties for non-compliance. In addition, false or misleading compliance certification can be prosecuted by the California Attorney General as fraud under California criminal law.
How is compliance determined?
As of January 1, 2013 rigid plastic packaging containers sold or offered for sale in California are required to meet one of the following criteria:
- Be made from at least 25 percent Post Consumer Material (PCM)…..
- Be recycled at a 45 percent recycling rate for: product associated, particular type or a single resin type RPPC. With these RPPC types and rates defined and demonstrated by approved methodologies in the regulation.
- Be “reusable” or “refillable” RPPCs as defined in the regulation.
- Be a “source reduced” RPPC as defined (10%). This option includes both RPPC weight reduction and/or product concentration. Any source reduction achieved by changing the rigid plastic packaging container to a non-rigid plastic container may be credited to other containers as part of the averaging method of compliance described in Section 17944(b).
- A product manufacturer may achieve compliance by averaging as prescribed in the regulation.
- Section 17944.1 also prescribes an “Alternative Container Compliance Method” based on use of PCM sourced from California.
Are there any exemptions from the certification process?
Some RPPCs are exempt from the certification process. These include:
- RPPC produced in or outside of California that are destined for shipment outside California and which remain with the products upon shipment.
- RPPC that contain drugs, medical devices, cosmetics, food, medical food, or infant formula as defined by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
- RPPC that contain toxic or hazardous products regulated by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.
- RPPC that are manufactured for the purpose of shipping hazardous materials and are prohibited from being manufactured with used material by federal packaging material specifications and testing standards set forth in Section 178.509 and 178.522 of Title 49 of the CFR, or are subject to testing standards set forth in Sections 178.600 to 178.609, inclusive, of Title 49 of the CFR, or to which recommendations of the United Nations on the transport of dangerous goods are applicable.
- Exemptions must be claimed as prescribed in Section 17946.5 of the RPPC regulation when a certification notice is received by a Product Manufacturer.
Must every RPPC meet one of the compliance criteria?
It is not necessary for each RPPC to individually meet one of the compliance criteria. A company may achieve compliance by “averaging” the recycling rates, the postconsumer content, the source reduction or the refill or reuse data of its containers.
An average may be calculated using either data specific to containers sold and recycled in California, or nationwide. Averaging may be based upon an entire product line or sublines, but it may only include RPPCs for which the same compliance criteria are claimed. Every RPPC must be included in the “average” or comply with one of the other criteria.
Disclaimer: This information is intended as a summary and should not be misconstrued as C.L. Smith offering legal or regulatory advice. Companies must read and understand the RPPC law in full and take appropriate action. C.L. Smith can field questions and offer compliance strategies for customer review.
For more information:
For information on plastics, please visit http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/Plastics/rppc