Californians are accustomed to being at the forefront of important environmental movements. It’s hard to imagine our beautiful state without its landmark protections for our air, water, coastline and other majestic ecosystems. In 2006, we created the country’s first carbon trading system and in 2018 we pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045. Now we have a chance to assert the same leadership in dealing with the single-use plastic calamity through two state laws currently moving toward approval.
Senate Bill 54 by Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) and Assembly Bill 1080 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) are identical pieces of legislation that would establish the groundbreaking California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, which would put the responsibility for, and the cost of, dealing with discarded plastic packaging and takeout containers where it belongs: on the companies that make them, rather than the consumers who buy them.
How to Make a Difference Reducing California’s Plastic Waste
According to the Los Angeles Times editorial endorsement, the bills would require that, by 2032, products sold in plastic packaging in the state have a proven recycling or composting rate of 75%. If products could not meet that high bar, they would have to be wrapped in some other material that does. Right now, the recycling rate is just 9%.
A single-use plastic tax appears to be headed for the 2022 state ballot, and it would raise the funds to help implement the law. It may seem like a long time to wait for a problem that’s already decades in the making, but it’s the start we need to finally make progress.
California has not been immune to the harmful impacts of single-use plastic on our environment ‒ and our health. Despite our great affinity and respect for the outdoors, we’ve managed to create a massive plastic waste problem. On top of that, COVID-19 is driving a sharp increase in single-use plastics for hygiene precautions. Our planet cannot continue to digest all the waste we keep throwing at it – there is a physical limit to what can be tossed out.
California is the fifth-largest economy in the world. Under this new law, if producers want to sell in our lucrative market, they have to do a better job of packaging their goods. And since it would be inefficient to package their products in multiple materials for different markets, chances are the California version would be sold everywhere.
Relying on the cheapest, hardest-to-dispose-of materials to package products simply shifted the burden of managing the long-term consequences of their merchandise from the sellers to us. If the only way you can turn a profit is to damage regions where your customers live, you probably don’t have a great business in the first place.
If you believe this issue is important, please take minute to read the legislation, and email your state Assembly member and Senator to let them know you support it. Find your representatives and get the links to contact them here.