SACRAMENTO, Calif. — An ambitious California proposal aims to cut plastic production for single-use products like shampoo bottles and food wrappers by 25% starting in the next decade, as part of an effort to curb pollution by this ubiquitous material.
A bill tabled late Thursday aims to rally environmental and trade groups to avoid a similar ballot measure that is expected to go to voters in November. But at least one of the ballot measure’s proponents, the Natural Resources Defense Council, still doesn’t agree with the deal.
Democratic Senator Ben Allen, the bill’s author, said if passed, the proposal would make California a leader in reducing plastic waste by focusing on eliminating plastic at the source, and not only on its recycling once produced.
“The truth is, we just need less bullshit — less plastic in general,” Allen said Friday.
Plastics have long been the target of environmental groups. Most plastics are not recycled and millions of tons pollute the world’s oceans, harm wildlife and end up in drinking water. Various efforts are underway to curb this pollution, with states attempting to reduce the use of plastic grocery bags, straws and other products. This month, the federal government announced it would phase out the sale of single-use plastics like water bottles in national parks.
Under the bill, the 25% reduction in plastic from single-use products would begin in 2032. It would apply to producers of products like laundry detergent, toothpaste and food packaging, as well as businesses like Amazon who package products for shipment. They should replace plastic with other materials, reduce their packaging or market products as reusable and make it easier for consumers. This would not apply to bottled water or other beverages, which are regulated by different recycling laws.
Beyond plastic, producers of all single-use products, even those made of paper or glass, should ensure that 65% are recycled by 2032. It is estimated that less than 10% of plastic in the United States United is currently being recycled.
Manufacturers of single-use products would have to join “producer responsibility organisations” which would enforce the rules under state supervision. The organizations are set to raise $500 million a year for a state plastic pollution reduction fund. Producers who break the rules could be fined $50,000 a day.
The legislation was the product of lengthy negotiations between Allen’s office, environmental and trade groups. Allen said he doesn’t expect the plastics industry to support the bill. But he hopes they won’t push against it, as it could be more palatable than the ballot measure and would mean they don’t have to spend money trying to defeat it.
“As California businesses large and small face a maze of environmental regulations as a result of this bill, we believe this proposal provides long-term policy certainty on recycling and packaging,” said Jennifer Barrera, president of the California Chamber of Commerce. A declaration.
Yet there was no immediate commitment from supporters of the election measure to withdraw it. Ballot measures can be suppressed until June 30, which means the bill should pass quickly.
“We will withdraw the initiative if/when the Governor’s signed bill is worth the sacrifice. Not a day earlier. We are a long way from that,” Linda Escalante of the Natural Resources Defense Council and supporter of the measure said in a statement.
Caryl Hart, vice chairman of the California Coastal Commission, and Michael Sangiacomo, former chairman of waste management company Recology, are the other two supporters of the campaign measure. Neither could be immediately reached for comment.
The election measure calls for a 25% reduction in plastic production, but starting two years earlier. It would ban the use of polystyrene and similar products by food vendors. Legislation wouldn’t do that; instead, 20% of these products should be recycled. Anja Brandon, US plastics policy analyst at the Ocean Conservancy, said this amounts to a “de facto ban” because the material cannot be recycled.
The ballot measure puts more regulatory power in the hands of the California Department of Recycling and Resource Recovery and imposes a 1-cent levy on all single-use plastic products. Proponents of the measure say the legislation gives the industry too much power to regulate itself.
The Ocean Conservancy is one of the environmental groups supporting the bill. Brandon called it the toughest plastics legislation in the country. His organization estimated that the bill would reduce plastic in the state by 23 million tons over 10 years.
“Walk down a grocery aisle, everything you see (it’s plastic) is going to be affected by it,” she said.
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Post expires at 7:30pm on Tuesday June 28th, 2022