California Bill Reduces Single-Use Plastics by 25%

To limit pollution from the ubiquitous plastic, a California proposal intends to reduce plastic production for single-use products like shampoo bottles and food wrappers by 25 percent beginning in the next decade.

To avert a similar ballot issue in November, a bill was proposed late Thursday to bring environmental and commercial groups together. The measure’s three backers are divided, though, with at least two refusing to commit to it just yet.

The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Sen. Ben Allen, said that if passed, the idea will make California a leader in decreasing plastic waste by focusing on removing plastic at the source, not merely recycling it once generated.

There is simply too much plastic in the environment, Allen asserted on Friday.

Environmentalists have long taken issue with the use of plastics. More than a million tonnes of plastic waste are contaminating the world’s oceans, harming wildlife, and making their way into people’s drinking water. Several initiatives are being undertaken by states to minimize their reliance on plastic shopping bags, straws, and other items. National Parks will no longer sell single-use plastics like water bottles, the federal government announced this month.

The measure calls for a reduction in single-use plastics of 25% by the year 2032. Laundry detergent, toothpaste, and food wrappers are all examples of products that might be affected by this rule. They’d have to find alternatives to plastic, cut the amount of packaging they use, or promote their items as reusable and make that process simple for customers. There are separate recycling laws in place for water and other beverage bottles, which would not be affected by this policy.

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By 2032, all single-use product manufacturers, including those using paper or glass, must ensure that 65 percent of their product is recyclable. Plastic recycling in the United States is now believed to be less than 10%.

With the help of “producer responsibility groups,” the rules for single-use products will be implemented with governmental control. For a state plastic pollution mitigation fund, the organizations would have to raise $500 million a year. Producers can be fined $50,000 a day if they do not obey the requirements.

Long negotiations between Allen’s office and environmental and corporate groups resulted in the law. In Allen’s view, the plastics industry is unlikely to support the legislation. If they don’t lobby against it, he hopes they won’t because it may be more popular than the ballot initiative and would save them money.

According to Jennifer Barrera, president of the California Chamber of Commerce, “While California businesses both large and small face a maze of environmental rules as a result of this law, we feel that this plan guarantees long-term policy consistency surrounding recycling and packaging.”

Still, there was no immediate pledge from the backers of the ballot item to drop it from the upcoming election. The bill would have to pass quickly because ballot proposals can be deleted until June 30th.

“We reserve the right to withdraw the initiative if and when the Governor’s bill justifies the sacrifice. Not even a day earlier. The Natural Resources Defense Council’s Linda Escalante, one of the bill’s proponents, said as much in a statement.

They are joined by Caryl Hart, vice-chair of the California Coastal Commission, and Michael Sangiacomo, former president of the waste management company Recology. If the law doesn’t go far enough, Sangiacomo says he won’t be voting for it. After that, he didn’t say anything more about it.

Starting two years early, the proposed ballot item mandates a 25 percent reduction in plastic output. It would prohibit food vendors from using Styrofoam and related items. This is not the intention of the legislation, which instead calls for the recycling of at least 20% of these items. A “de facto ban” has been imposed on the use of single-use plastics in the United States, according to Ocean Conservancy policy analyst Anja Brandon.

The initiative increases the regulatory authority of the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery and imposes a 1-cent tax on all single-use plastic products. People who support it argue that it gives too much power to the sector to govern itself.

An environmental organization that supports the bill is the Ocean Conservancy. In Brandon’s words, it was the country’s toughest plastics regulation. Her group predicted that the bill will reduce plastic waste in the state by 23 million tonnes over a decade. –>

Everything you see (that is plastic) in the grocery aisle will be affected, she said.

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