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CA’s SB 54: Businesses Involved With Packaging and Foodware Encouraged to Assess “Producer” Responsibility and Register with PRO Working Group by Jan. 15

by Alecia E. Cotton, Jon-Erik W. Magnus and Alexis J. Morris

On January 8, CalRecycle announced that it approved Circular Action Alliance (CAA) to serve as the first producer responsibility organization (PRO) for the implementation of SB 54, the Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act. Enacted in 2022, SB 54 created an extended producer responsibility (EPR) program to manage packaging and single-use plastic foodware products in California. A PRO is responsible for managing program compliance. SB 54 requires producers of covered materials to join an authorized PRO.

SB 54 applies to “producers,” which is broadly defined to include manufacturers, that are the brand owners or licensees of the brand, of a product using “covered materials.” However, to ensure compliance, if there is no person in the state who meets that criteria, SB 54 will look downstream, potentially ensnaring the brand owner alone (e.g., private label retailers), distributors, or retailers of products that use “covered materials.”

”Covered Materials” under SB 54 include (1) single-use packaging that is routinely recycled, disposed of, or discarded and typically not refilled or otherwise reused by the producer and (2) plastic and plastic-coated paper single-use food service ware (such as utensils, trays, plates, clamshells, containers, wrappers, straws, etc.). Exemptions exist for medicines or prescription drugs, infant formula, nutritional supplements, pesticides, dangerous or hazardous materials, beverage containers subject to California’s bottle bill, and other products.      

To fulfill its obligations as PRO, CAA will be required to: 

  • Develop and submit a producer responsibility plan and annual budget
  • Develop and implement a source reduction plan and submit specified data
  • Set fees for participant producers to fund the budget and support recycling programs throughout the state
  • Submit annual implementation and compliance reports to CalRecycle 
  • Set fees for participant producers to fund the budget and support recycling programs throughout the state

Once the CAA’s plan is approved, its producers will not be allowed to sell, offer for sale, import or distribute covered materials into California unless the producer is authorized by CAA’s plan. 

SB 54 initially set a January 1, 2024, deadline for producers of a covered material to join a PRO. Because CAA has only just been selected, there is currently no procedure for producers to join the PRO, but it is anticipated that one will be established soon. In the interim, CAA has created a working group allowing producers to participate in policy discussions that will inform the creation of the producer responsibility plan. Participation in the working group is an excellent way to keep abreast of the changes related to SB 54 as well as keep track of compliance obligations.  

Producers are encouraged to join the working group as soon as possible, and ideally by Jan. 15 in time for the next meeting on Jan. 16. 

CAA intends to be the PRO in any state that has adopted a packaging-based EPR law as part of its mission to create national standards for recycling. It is supported by leading consumer products companies such as Ferrero; General Mills; Keurig Dr Pepper; L’Oréal; Mars, Incorporated; Nestlé USA; Niagara Bottling, LLC; PepsiCo; Procter & Gamble; The Coca-Cola Company and Unilever. CAA was appointed last year to administer Colorado’s EPR program and was selected by Maryland’s Department of the Environment to represent producer interests and serve on the State Producer Responsibility Advisory Council. The organization also filed a notice of intent that it will submit a PRO Program Plan to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality by the end of March 2024. 

Please let us know if you are interested in participating in the working group through RJO. We would be happy to facilitate this and answer any questions you may have. You can contact the lead lawyer on your team or reach out to our Retail practice co-chair, Alecia Cotton ( and Alexis Morris ( 

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