deal or No deal? Most likely, deal.
California environmentalists, who back a November ballot to reduce single-use plastics, are poised to withdraw it just before the Thursday deadline, clashing with lawmakers and others over a bill fiercely. After negotiations, which aim to achieve similar goals and which is supported by some influential environmental organizations.
Ballot movers wait for the legislature to pass the bill before making a final decision. Some told CalMatters today that they are happy with the current proposal, although the Natural Resources Defense Council continues to worry.
The drama reached a climax today at a hastily convened meeting of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, which approved the alternative law in a bipartisan 9-0 vote. He still faces voting ahead of the full assembly this week. If approved, the bill — which was amended on Friday night and again on Sunday, June 16 — would also have to be approved by the state Senate.
Democrat State Sen. Ben Allen of Santa Monica, author of Senate Bill 54, said his team is continuing “intensive” talks with ballot supporters to address concerns.
“This is a significant effort to reduce plastic pollution that has brought environmental and business groups together,” he told CalMatters. “This is what voters told us to do: solve these problems together.”
Allen acknowledged there was still work to do, but expressed optimism that the ballot would be rolled back. “At the end of the day, they will need to feel confident that this is strong. We are continuing those conversations, but we think the bill is strong enough to deserve to be pulled back on the ballot.”
Californians Against the West, which opposed earlier versions of the law, were convinced.
Nicole Kurian, the group’s policy analyst, told the committee: “Based on the author’s commitment to continuing to work on an outstanding issue raised by environmental justice groups around the most recent amendments and definitions, we are pleased to express our support today. ” ,
How to make real progress in reducing plastic pollution and practical improvements to California’s badly broken recycling system – and how closely to collaborate with the plastics industry in any given solution.
And the question of whether to make a deal prompts calculations of whether a ballot measure could potentially pass with a divided environmental lobby and against the plastics industry’s spending.
The bill does not fulfill everything sought by supporters of the ballot. But several leading environmental groups called on the Legislature on Sunday to pass the bill.
SB 54, however, will give the plastics industry more time to comply with mandates and regulations in the ballot measure – by 2032 instead of 2030 – that mandate all single-use packaging and food items to be reusable, recyclable, recyclable, and recyclable. Designed to be refillable or compostable. , In California, only a small fraction of all plastic waste is recycled. About 85% ends up in landfills.
The bill would still impose duties on single-use plastic packaging and food items, with proceeds going to CalRecycle, the state natural resources agency, and local governments.
In a June 21 joint letter to Assembly member Luz Rivas of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, the League of California Cities, the California State Association of Counties and Rural County Representatives Said they support the bill Because it will help them meet the challenges of recycling plastic.
The agreement is the latest under a 2014 law designed to keep costly measures off the ballot – but it is also used by special interests to pressure the Legislature to approve reforms. It’s the second of this season: Last month, Newsom signed a bill to reform California’s medical malpractice law and supporters cast their November ballot measure.
But the legislative route to the clear plastics deal has been a long and messy one.
Allen first introduced the bill in 2019 with a coalition of environmental groups, but it failed to pass. Another attempt in 2020 also failed, barely.
After that, some of those environmental groups split up and tried the ballot measurement approach instead. He teamed up with San Francisco-based waste management company, Recology, which has come under fire for allegedly overcharging the city, aside from the ballot initiative.
Earlier in June, ballot sponsors wrote to Allen and legislative leaders that SB 54 did not include tight enough protections. Any plans they want include:
- Giving more power to CalRecycle rather than the plastics industry – specifically, how to achieve recycling goals.
- Prohibits producers from chemical recycling, or most technologies that burn waste, or otherwise produce fuel or energy.
- Giving the state the ability to prohibit the sale of other materials or to phase out certain materials directly.
- Either banning Styrofoam and other polystyrene food containers or accelerating their reduction and recycling. Michael Sangiacomo – Former Recology CEO who is one of three supporters whose name is on the measure and has to agree to take it back – Told the legislators that they will not do it until the bill Calls for at least 50% of polystyrene to be recycled by 2025.
The latest version of SB 54 bans chemical recycling and clarifies that foods made from polystyrene are banned as long as at least 25% of it is recycled by 2025.
Californians Against the West, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club of California also objected to the settlement since the 2019 bill. In a letter to legislative leaders dated June 19, he also raised concerns about relying on the plastics industry to achieve reduction targets.
The earlier bills that failed and the deal on the current version “reflect the grip of corporate polluters on legislative bodies.” The letter argued. “That’s why the state has a citizen initiative process. The people of California want to see decisive action to turn the tide on plastic pollution, and we have no doubt that voters will support the ballot that’s in front of them this November.” .
A coalition of about 20 environmental justice groups echoed similar concerns in a separate letter to the Legislature on June 19.
Following today’s committee vote, Victoria Rome, director of California Government Affairs with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the committee has made great progress in addressing the group’s concerns, but that we are working with our environmental justice and public health partners. will continue to work. To make sure the bill is as strong as possible.”
But California Against West said it is now satisfied.
It joins several other major environmental groups – including Nature ProtectionEnvironment California and envirovoters—what was before Said the bill would lead Clear and enforceable reductions in plastic packaging of at least 25% would boost California’s recycling efforts by requiring single-use plastics to be reusable or compostable and mandating that plastic manufacturers contribute to cleanup efforts. Provide money The Ocean Conservancy estimates that SB 54 will eliminate 23 tons of plastic in its first 10 years.
Is it better to keep the industry on board?
Allen argues that his bill includes more specifications than ballot measurement, and that buy-in from the plastics industry will yield better results.
The “manufacturer responsibility” model would not be the first in the SB 54. It has been used in California to prevent waste from carpet fibers, mercury thermostats and mattresses.
Heidi Sanborn, founder and director of the National Stewardship Action Council, says she has used what she learned from the successes and failures of those programs to help prepare SB 54.
In the carpet fiber program, for example, the agreement in the bill meant there was no specific recycling rate or target date for producers. The paint stewardship program also had some initial hurdles, but with bills on how to refine the program, about 92% of the more than 4 million gallons of paint collected are being reused or recycled, according to its 2021 annual according to the report.
“When you have producers running programs, the main thing is set-up. The devil is in the details,” Sanborn said. “You get assigned to a state agency for oversight and enforcement, give them the tools in law, and then they have to use them.”
But Environmental Justice and other groups are more than skeptical. “Suffice it to say,” he wrote, “we do not believe that an industry would now play the starring role in deceiving the public for so long about the effects of its products on our communities and our planet. Voluntarily. own death.”
California’s Plastic Crisis
According to estimates from CalRecycle, California once exported about a third of its recyclable materials, the majority of which were exported to China. But in 2017, China announced it would tighten contamination standards and ban the importation of certain types of waste.
Now, California recyclers are stockpiling or landfilling plastic products, and even struggling to sell paper. Replanet, a major collector of beverage containers, closed 284 of its centers in California despite receiving $25 million from the state.
Since then, several bills have attempted to address the crisis, with mixed success.
In 2018, the Legislature banned single-use plastic straws, and in 2020, plastic bottles were required to contain at least 50% recycled plastic by 2030. Last year, lawmakers limited which products were allowed to use the triangular “chasing arrow” recycling. Symbol, symbol.
Others, including a state ban on most single-use plastic carry-out bags, were done via ballot.
“Plastic pollution is at an environmental tilt point. Its impacts on our oceans, rivers, parks, playgrounds and food sources can no longer be ignored,” Rivas said in a statement after today’s committee vote. “The amendments proposed by my committee further strengthen SB 54 when it comes to eliminating plastic from our communities.”