California Sets Nation’s Toughest Plastic Reduction Rules

To sell their goods in Californian stores, companies who sell shampoo, food, and other goods packaged in plastic have a decade to reduce their use of the polluting material.

Thursday saw the signing of new legislation by Gov. Gavin Newsom that aims to considerably cut down on the amount of single-use plastic packaging used in California and significantly increase recycling rates for the remaining material. As a model for other states to follow, it sets the nation’s strictest rules for the use of plastic packaging.

Democrat Sen. Bob Hertzberg stated before the vote that “we’re hurting the world and we need to change it,” he said.

The measure mandates a 10% reduction in single-use plastics by 2027, and a 25% reduction by 2032, for plastic makers. It is possible to reduce the amount of plastic packaging by reducing the size of the package, switching to a different material, or making the product reusable or refillable. To meet the goal of reducing waste by 65 percent by 2032, plastic will have to be recycled at an unprecedented rate. There are separate recycling standards in place for plastic beverage bottles, therefore this would not apply.

There have been numerous legislative attempts to prohibit the use of plastic packaging for years, but this year’s ballot initiative threatened to put a similar plan before voters. After the bill was passed, the measure’s three primary proponents pulled it from the ballot, although they expressed fear that the plastics sector would try to alter the regulations.

Single-use plastic grocery bags, straws, and other things have been banned in several states, and national parks will soon no longer accept plastic water bottles. However, it is still widely utilized in a wide range of products, from laundry detergent and soap bottles to vegetable and lunch meat packaging. Millions of tonnes of plastic waste end up in landfills and the world’s oceans every year because most plastic products in the US aren’t recycled. It damages wildlife and ends up as microplastics in our water supply.

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A senior ocean policy manager at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Amy Wolfram, says that marine species from crabs to whales are consuming plastics that have made their way into the Pacific Ocean. It was a “great start” to solving a significant issue, she said.

The state’s recycling department would need to approve a plan developed by the plastics industry’s industry group to meet the standards. To combat plastic pollution, they’ll have to collect $500 million a year from makers. The producer responsibility regimes in Maine, Oregon, and Colorado are very similar.

A 30 percent recycling goal for styrofoam food packaging by 2028, which some advocates claim is a de facto ban because the material cannot be recycled, is included in the bill. There was a ballot proposition that would have completely prohibited the substance. Would have given more authority to the state recycling agency, rather than allowing the industry to organize itself.

An example of environmentalists and industry working together to achieve a constructive change, said Sen. Ben Allen, a Santa Monica Democrat who led the negotiations on the bill.

This agreement will put California at the vanguard of solving a critical global problem, according to him.

Although the measure’s supporters pulled their ballot proposal, they claimed they are still worried that the industry will try to weaken the bill even after they pulled their ballot effort. The Natural Resources Defense Council’s Linda Escalante, former Recology CEO Michael Sangiacomo, and California Coastal Commission member Caryl Hart all supported the initiative.

According to the American Chemistry Council, a trade group representing the plastics industry, the bill unfairly limits the quantity of post-consumer recycled plastic that can be used to satisfy the 25% reduction goal and restricts emerging, innovative recycling technology.’

Despite the ban on plastic incineration and combustion, some forms of so-called chemical recycling are allowed under the new legislation.

Beyond Plastics’ Judith Enck noted that while California’s plan goes further than any other state in decreasing plastic pollution, it still falls short. According to her, this will only reduce packing by roughly 10% because manufacturers can make their items reusable or convert them to alternative materials. Furthermore, she said that it is overly reliant on ineffective programs for recycling plastics.

She predicted that worldwide plastic output would quadruple by 2050.

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