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The Case for a Legislated Market in Minimum Recycled Content for Plastics

January 2020

Citation: 50 ELR 10042

Issue: 1

Author: Chantal Carriere and Rachael Beavers Horne

The plastic packaging industry faces mounting shareholder and public pressure to reduce the environmental impact of post-consumer plastic packaging. The recycled plastics market in the United States is positioned for growth; however, developing a reliable supply of post-consumer plastics will be expensive because of problems in the recycling market. Reliance on export markets has limited investment in domestic recycling capacity, local collection programs vary considerably, and many consumers are ignorant about what can be recycled. These challenges are compounded by the current low-cost environment for manufacturing virgin plastics. This Article evaluates the opportunities and challenges of legislating a minimum recycled content requirement for the packaging industry. First, it provides an overview of the current supply chain, analyzes the factors that are driving change in these processes, and describes the current challenges with the recycling market and solutions that have been previously utilized. Next, it proposes a model law solution, and analyzes the benefits and challenges of creating a statutory requirement for a minimum quantity of recycled plastics. Finally, it assesses the possibilities of passing federal and state legislation.

Chantal Carriere is an associate at White & Case Houston. She received her J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center and the University of Calgary. Rachael Beavers Horne is a 2020 J.D. candidate at the University of Houston Law Center.

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