Savannah Seydel, VP of Sustainability / 5 Minute Read
California AB 1201: What You Need to Know California has always been at the forefront of environmental regulations, leading the way with progressive legislation that aims to protect both consumers and the environment. The recent introduction of California AB 1201 is no exception. In this post, we'll delve into the key points of this bill and discuss its implications for foodservice operators across the state. What Is CA AB 1201? California AB 1201 was passed on October 5, 2021, and signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on the same day. AB 1201 is what’s become known as a “Truth in Labeling” Bill, which is a type of legislation that’s rolling out in states like Washington, Colorado and Maryland in response to the flurry of environmental marketing claims and greenwashing that is confusing consumers and contaminating waste streams.
The California bill tackles environmental marketing claims for a wide range of packaging, from consumer products to packaging components, thin plastic sheet films, and food and beverage containers. The law restricts the sale of plastic items labeled as "compostable" or "home compostable" unless they adhere to certain standards or certifications, and bans the sale of products labeled as "biodegradable," "degradable," or "decomposable" without meeting specific environmental marketing standards. By January 1, 2024, the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery must determine specific criteria, and by January 1, 2026, enact relevant regulations. However, products made of fiber, devoid of plastics or polymers, are exempted from certain ASTM specifications.
Foodservice operators can play a role in educating their customers, helping them understand the labels, and promoting more sustainable practices.
How Will This Affect California Foodservice Operators? If you are a foodservice operator in California, this bill has significant implications for you:
Packaging and Labeling Overhaul: Many foodservice establishments use disposable containers, utensils, and other items labeled as "compostable" or "biodegradable." With the introduction of AB 1201, restaurants, cafes, and other establishments will need to ensure their suppliers are providing products that meet the new standards.
Increased Scrutiny and Compliance: Foodservice operators will need to stay updated with the regulations set by the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery. This means there might be added layers of scrutiny, and businesses will need to ensure their compliance to avoid penalties.
Potential Cost Implications: As businesses transition to new products that meet the criteria, there might be an associated cost. While the goal is to make environmentally friendly choices more mainstream, initial costs for sourcing compliant products might be higher.
Educational Efforts: With the new law, there might be some confusion among consumers about what is genuinely compostable or biodegradable. Foodservice operators can play a role in educating their customers, helping them understand the labels, and promoting more sustainable practices.
Operational Changes: For establishments that have on-site composting or waste management practices, there might be operational changes required. This is to ensure that the waste they generate can be efficiently processed as per the new standards.
Boosting Green Initiatives: On the plus side, this bill offers an opportunity for foodservice operators to promote their green initiatives. Establishments that prioritize using compliant products can market their efforts, attracting environmentally-conscious consumers.
Establishments can use this legislation as a stepping stone to further their own environmental initiatives
From Great Change Comes Great Opportunities California AB 1201 may present initial challenges for foodservice operators in terms of compliance and potential costs, but it also opens doors to meeting California’s progressive environmental goals. Establishments can use this legislation as a stepping stone to further their own environmental initiatives, setting themselves apart in an increasingly eco-conscious market.
As consumers grow increasingly aware of how their actions can have an effect on the environment, businesses that adapt proactively, grasp the nuances of the bill, and make the necessary changes in their operations, position themselves to reap the benefits.
Earth Pulse is an advocacy blog produced by Better Earth. It is intended to help inform and educate about the urgent issues around sustainability, the environment, and social justice, through posts from a variety of authors.