By Colleen Beamish
Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) introduced legislation to phase out the sale and distribution of single-use plastics by 2030.
Senate Bill 54/AB 1080 establishes a comprehensive framework to address the pollution and waste crisis dramatically reducing the amount of single-use waste generate in the state and requiring the remaining packaging and products to be truly recyclable or compostable.
Specifically, plastic single-use packaging and products sold or distributed in California must be reduced or recycled by 75 percent by 2030.
The bill also creates incentives and policies to encourage in-state manufacturing using recycled material generated in California. SB 54 is co-authored by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco).
“We can’t keep ignoring the public health and pollution threat posed by mounting plastic waste,” said Allen. “Every day Californians generate tons of non-recyclable, non-compostable waste that clog landfills, rivers, and beaches. The waste is often eventually broken down into toxic chemicals—some of them cancer-causing—that find their way into our food and water systems. The future of California’s quality of life is at stake. Rather than continue to tinker around the edges with one-off bans of individual plastic items, we need a thoughtful, comprehensive solution to address this serious problem head-on.”
“We have to stop treating our oceans and planet like a dumpster,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez said. “Any fifth grader can tell you that our addiction to single-use plastics is killing our ecosystems. We have technology and innovation to improve how we reduce and recycle the plastic packaging and products in our state. Now, we have to find the political will to do so.”
In California, less than 15 percent of single-use plastic is recycled, and the cost of recycling exceeds the scrap value of the plastic material. The cost of cleaning up plastic pollution in California alone could exceed $2 billion annually. Additionally, under China’s National Sword policy, China has stopped accepting recyclable waste from foreign entities, eliminating the market for previously recyclable items. Without this market, these materials now pile up in recycling centers or are sent to landfills or illegal incineration facilities in Southeast Asia.
“It’s past time for California to acknowledge that plastics are pollution,” said state Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley). “The rise in plastics in everything from packaging to single-use products has grown — not shrunk — our waste stream and tragically is irreversibly damaging our oceans and wildlife. I’m proud to be a co-author of SB 54. It’s imperative that we curtail the proliferation of plastics in our state.”
Roughly two-thirds of all plastic ever produced has been released into the environment and remains there in some form. As these items fragment into smaller particles, known as microplastics, they increasingly contaminate food and drinking water sources. Microplastics have been found in tap water, bottled water, table salt, fish, shellfish, and agricultural soils. Exposure to these plastics and associated toxins has been linked to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption and otherrious health problems.
“Single-use plastics create exorbitant amounts of waste and are harmful to our environment,” said Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) a co-author of SB 54. “We cannot continue to fill our landfills and our oceans with waste. It is harmful to our ecosystems and our economy. Every year our local governments spend millions to clean up and prevent plastics from polluting our oceans, and it’s only going to get more expensive if we don’t take aggressive steps to reduce the use of single-use plastic. SB 54 will help move us towards a more economically and environmentally sustainable future.”
By 2050 plastic production will account for 20 percent of global fossil fuel consumption, leading the European Union and other countries that are major purchasers of consumer goods to implement comprehensive waste reduction frameworks.