A comprehensive package of bills aimed at reducing plastic waste and improving recycling efforts, approved by the Legislature this month, are being celebrated by environmentalists and waste reduction activists as they await a final consideration by the government. Gavin Newsom.
The six bills include a measure that would extend the plastic straw ban to plastic utensils and condiment packages – and would apply not only to full-service restaurants, but to take-out and fast food restaurants, which are currently exempted from the straw law.
Other laws would provide new incentives for the reuse of glass beverage bottles, crack down on misleading recycling labeling and reduce the export of plastics that end up in foreign landfills.
“It’s certainly a historic year, not to mention the level of interest among legislators, both in terms of the number and scope of bills passed,” said Nick Lapis, 44, of the nonprofit Californians Against the West. is for.” Which advocates for more recycling as well as less single-use packaging and products.
“The plastic issue, in particular, appears to be snowballing, which is great because the problem is also growing rapidly and in need of major improvement.”
However, the most comprehensive proposal, SB 54, was introduced for the third year in a row in opposition to the California Chamber of Commerce and several packaging and plastics interests. Those groups say the bill would unreasonably inflate costs on businesses and consumers.
Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, would require all single-use, disposable packaging and single-use, disposable food items to be compostable or recyclable.
Sander Kushen of CALPIRG, a consumer advocacy group, applauded the bills approved this year and expressed disappointment that Allen’s measure stalled again.
“More must be done,” he said. “It’s some good progress, but we’ll keep fighting for bolder, stronger bills.”
Laura DeHaan of Environment California agreed, saying that much of California’s waste now ends up in nature. A study this year by environmental group Oceana documented 1,792 cases where marine animals died as a result of strangulation and drowning related to waste and ingestion of plastic, which impairs digestion and leads to starvation for many species. Is.
“With the passage of SB 54 … by making producers responsible for the waste they produce, we will ensure wildlife is on top of the waste,” Dihan said.
A spokesman for Allen said the senator expects the bill to be passed in the first half of next year. She noted that if that effort fails, a citizen initiative with similar provisions already has enough attested signatures to qualify for the November 2022 ballot.
In 1989, the state instituted the Integrated Waste Management Act, which called for 75% solid waste reduction or recycling by 2020. Over the past four years China – long California’s primary destination for recycling – eliminated its imports of waste. , partly because most of what they were getting was not being recycled. It underpins California’s waste-reduction efforts, which were already falling short.
Several other countries followed China’s lead, and California was left with inadequate infrastructure to deal with the waste it once exported. According to Allen, in 2019, the state had reduced solid waste effluents by only 37% from the 1989 benchmark.
Meanwhile, a new study from the Ocean Conservancy shows that 69% of the most commonly collected items in the past 35 years of international coastal cleanup are “effectively unrecoverable.” About half of them were related to food and drink, and about half were plastic.
According to the report, “six out of 10 Americans make misconceptions about recycling common plastic food delivery items.”
This year’s legislation aims to reduce the flow of waste into landfills, reduce the amount of single-use plastics that end up in the ocean, and make it clear to consumers which packaging and products are truly reusable.
Will the governor sign them into law?
“We addressed all of the issues raised by the administration during the legislative process, so I think we’ve addressed any implementation concerns,” Lapis said. “I see no reason why he would veto any bill other than against industry protests.”
Newsom has until October 10 to sign or veto the pending legislation.
a closer look
So far, the highest-profile state laws to reduce plastics are a ban on single-use plastic takeout bags at grocery stores, ratified by voters in 2016, and a 2018 law banning the distribution of plastic straws at full-service restaurants. unless the customers request them. .
Take a closer look at the proposals on the governor’s desk.
AB 818: Disposable Wipes. This would require a “do not flush” labeling. The wipes remove microfibers that end up in the ocean after sewage treatment. On their way to sewage treatment, they collect grease that forms “fatbergs,” which can clog sewage lines.
AB 881: Export of waste. These regulations will reduce the export of composite plastics which are ultimately not recycled. Exporters will not receive diversion credits for composite plastics unless they can demonstrate that those plastics will eventually be segregated and recycled.
AB 962: Reusable glass bottles. Currently, those who make glass available for crushing and melting into fresh glass receive a recycling payment per bottle from the state. This will allow people who wash and reuse the bottle to receive the same payment.
AB 1201: Truth in labeling for compost. Products and packaging must meet specifications before they can be labeled compostable.
AB 1276: Single-use foods and packaged spices. Dine-in customers must request plastic utensils, straws and condiment packs. Restaurants can ask drive-thru customers if they want them.
SB 343: The truth in labeling for recycling. Products and packaging must meet specifications before being labeled as recyclable and must have a trailing arrow symbol. Plastic beverage cups, lids on yogurts, aerosol cans and foam coolers are among the items that sometimes feature the emblem despite not being widely reusable.
Four other measures backed by environmentalists failed to reach the governor’s desk this session, including Allen’s single-use plastics proposal. The other three will require microfiber filters in washing machines, phasing out single-use plastic packaging for online purchases, and single-use ones used to package fresh berries and other food products. Minimal recycled materials will be required for a plastic thermoform box.