September 24th, 2019
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
717 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Dan Sullivan
302 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Re: Opposition to the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, Senate bill 1982, Senate bill 2260, Senate bill 2364, Senate bill 2372
Dear Senator Whitehouse and Senator Sullivan:
The undersigned are writing to oppose the “Save our Seas 2.0 Act”. While we appreciate your attention to the important issue of plastic pollution, this legislation does not provide a comprehensive approach to solving the growing problem of plastic pollution and certain provisions of the bill will make the problem worse.
We need Congress to pass legislation that reduces the generation of plastic, particularly single-use plastic packaging. This bill does not do that.
The public and a growing number of businesses are focused on the impacts of the entire lifecycle of plastic, from production, including fossil fuel extraction, to manufacturing, use, disposal – especially plastic incineration – and pollution in the environment. These impacts include significant and growing greenhouse gas emissions, toxic health impacts, plastic and microplastic pollution, degradation of water quality, damage to fish and wildlife, and the severe and too often unnoticed environmental justice impacts in communities where petrochemical facilities are sited. That is why hundreds of local governments, many in bi-partisan fashion, have adopted laws that ban or limit a range of plastic packaging such as plastic bags, polystyrene containers, plastic straws, balloons, plastic utensils and other single-use plastics. Beyond bans, we need a national law that reduces plastic generation, not just end-of-pipe approaches to manage plastic waste once it has been produced.
The primary focus of legislation addressing the plastic pollution crisis should focus on reducing the manufacturing and use of plastics – not attempts to clean it up after the fact. Your legislation directs a number of federal agencies to do studies, launches a Genius prize, and establishes a new Foundation housed at NOAA. While these efforts may have some positive impact, the bill ultimately approaches the issue as one of waste management, not overproduction of plastic, and risks further entrenching the systems that produce plastic rather than dislodging them. In particular, sections 305 (Study on repurposing plastic waste in infrastructure) and 306 (study on options to advance technologies for converting plastic waste to chemicals, feedstocks, and other useful products) are likely to expand markets for plastic waste which will then rely on a steady stream of plastic to stay viable. Many of these false solutions, such as incineration, waste-to-fuel, and pyrolysis approaches, are dangerous in their own right, and expanding their footprint on the American economy will only make it harder to phase out single-use and unnecessary plastic. We understand that the section of the bill dealing with incineration, gasification, pyrolysis of plastics has been removed from this bill but may be again added at a future date. We applaud it being removed and urge you to keep that section out of all future bills.
This is particularly concerning when considered alongside the enormous investments being made by the petrochemical industry in new facilities to produce ever more virgin plastic. According to the American Chemistry Council, over $204 billion in capital investment have been announced for 334 new or expanded facilities linked to US shale gas. Most of this investment is in facilities to produce plastic or plastic precursor chemicals. Industry plans to expand plastic production will overwhelm any efforts to strengthen the US recycling system.
This expansion is a climate and environmental justice crisis. The climate crisis cannot be solved without dealing with plastic production. A recent report calculated that, if trends in the plastic industry continue as planned, the plastic lifecycle could account for up to 13% of the global carbon budget just by 2050. Moreover, communities living close to facilities which produce and incinerate plastic, disproportionately low-income communities and communities of color, will be exposed to dangerous levels of air toxins while massive amounts of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere.
We the undersigned organizations request that you withdraw this bill or fundamentally change it so it focuses on reducing the generation of plastic, not the continued generation of plastic that inevitably damages the marine environment and then adds a new layer of problems from the air pollution at the gasification or incineration or pyrolysis or waste to fuel facilities that are not viable environmental or economic options.
The American people are actively working on the perils of plastic pollution and taking action at the local and state level. It would be a shame not to capitalize on the growing public interest in this issue and pass federal legislation that does not effectively address this problem.
We would be happy to discuss these concerns with you at your convenience. Please contact Judith Enck, founder of Beyond Plastics at 518.605.1770 or JudithEnck@Bennington.edu to arrange a time to discuss this matter.
Thank you for your consideration.
- Judith Enck, Beyond Plastics, Bennington, Vermont
- Steven Feit, Center for International Environmental Law, Washington, DC
- Jackie Nuñez, The Last Plastic Straw, Santa Cruz, California
- Harith Wickrema, Island Green Living Association, St. John, Virgin Islands
- Young Grguras, Post-landfill Action Network, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Ellie Cohen, The Climate Center, Santa Rosa, California
- Elise Semonian, Town PLanner, San Anselmo, California
- Anna Cummins, The 5 Gyres Institute, Los Angeles, California
- Heather Trim, Zero Waste Washington, Seattle, Washington
- Stiv Wilson, Story of Stuff Project, Berkeley, California
- Leslie Tamminen, 7th Generation Advisors, Los Angeles, California
- Denise Patel, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, New York, New York
- Yvonne Taylor, Seneca Lake Guardian, a Waterkeeper Alliance Affiliate, Watkins Glen, New York
- Jon Phillips, Co-Chair, Keep-It-Greene, Catskill, New York
- Mark Lichtenstein, Embrace Impatience Associates, Mexico, New York
- Debby Lee Cohen, Cafeteria Culture, New York, New York
- Craig Williams, Kentucky Environmental Foundation, Berea, Kentucky
- Tricia Cortez, Rio Grande International Study Center, Laredo, Texas
- Christopher Chin, The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education, Oakland, California
- Paul Burns, Vermont Public Interest Research Group, Montpelier, Vermont
- David Bezanson, Ph.D., 350, Silicon Valley, California
- Dianna Cohen, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Los Angeles, California
- Patricia Wood, Grassroots Environmental Education, Port Washington, New York
- KT Andresky, Breathe Free Detroit, Detroit, Michigan
- Bradley M. Campbell, Conservation Law Foundation, Boston, Massachusetts
- Miriam Gordon, UPSTREAM, San Francisco, California
- Theresa Landrum, Original United Citizens of Southwest Detroit, Detroit, Michigan
- Pamela Carter, 48217 Community and Environmental Health Organization, Detroit, Michigan
- Mary Buxton, 350, Silicon Valley, California
- Nicole Kemeny, 350, Silicon Valley, California
- Shilpi Chhotray, Break Free From Plastic, Oakland, California
- Sandra Steingraber, PhD, Concerned Health Professionals, New York, New York
- Robert Nuñez, Californians Against Waste, Sacramento, California
- Tracy Frisch, Clean Air Action Network, Glens Falls, New York
- Joanie Steinhaus, Turtle Island Restoration Network, Galveston, Texas
- Charlene Lemoine, Waukesha County Environmental Action League, Waukesha, Wisconsin
- Melissa Cooper Sargent, Ecology Center, Detroit, Michigan
- Lynn Hoffman, Eureka Recycling, Minneapolis, Minnesota
#BrandAudit2019 to highlight the power of citizens in holding corporate plastic polluters accountable
(September 21, 2019) — On World Cleanup Day today, Break Free From Plastic, the global movement working to stop plastic pollution for good, is highlighting the power of citizen action to hold corporate polluters accountable for the plastic pollution crisis.
Through its #BrandAudit2019 initiative, members of the #breakfreefromplastic movement have collectively organized over 700 brand audits in 84 countries to identify the brands responsible for the plastic pollution found in worldwide cleanups and record data to hold those brands accountable. These global coordinated citizen actions started during the last week of August and conclude today in celebration of the World Cleanup Day.
“Every time we do clean ups, we are confronted with the pervasive problem of plastic pollution suffocating the planet. By doing brand audits, we are able to expose and challenge the real drivers of this crisis, especially the companies who keep marketing and selling their products in disposable, throwaway packaging. We can’t keep cleaning up after the mess created by these corporations. They need to be held accountable,” said Emma Priestland, #breakfreefromplastic Corporate Campaign Coordinator.
“Corporations must own up to the plastic pollution that they are causing. These corporations have been inundating the Global South market with single-use products and multilayer small size sachets or packets that, according to them, are pro-poor, but can hardly be recycled. However, these corporations are the ones making profits out of this throwaway packaging, while at the same time polluting developing countries and calling us the world’s biggest polluters,” Daru Rini of Indonesia-based Ecoton.
In the recently held Waste Assessment and Brand Audit in Surabaya River, Indonesia, Ecoton has identified plastic residual wastes such as soiled diapers, sachets or packets, and PET bottles as the biggest percentage of plastic waste. These single-use plastics that can neither be recycled nor composted are the biggest threat to achieving Zero Waste, and are to blame for releasing microplastics into the environment.
Indonesia, along with other Southeast Asian countries, are reeling from the impacts of plastic pollution brought about by the influx of products wrapped in sachets or smaller plastic packaging aimed at reaching lower income brackets in developing countries. However, communities and governments often bear the brunt of managing the disposal of these unrecyclable plastic packaging while multinational corporations’ continued production and use of single-use plastic packaging is escaping scrutiny and accountability.
“Communities around the world have carried the burden of cleaning up the plastic pollution created by corporations for too long. Brand audits transform beach cleanups into something truly powerful—a way to stop plastic pollution at the source by holding corporate polluters accountable. We will only see real change when companies like Nestle, Unilever, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo. end their reliance on fossil fuel-based plastic and throwaway packaging,” said Graham Forbes, Greenpeace USA Global Project Leader.
From North and South America to Europe to Africa and Asia, #breakfreefromplastic has mobilized groups and individuals with a common mission to expose branded trash so that corporations can no longer pass the burden to citizens and governments. This year’s brand audit initiative has mobilized a massive number of volunteers in countries like Taiwan (11,000), Colombia (10,000) China (7 coastal cleanups), Benin (1800), Tanzania (1500), Kenya (700), Ecuador (600 volunteers), Ivory Coast (600 volunteers), India (600), Ghana (500 volunteers), the Philippines (500), and over 200 in Malawi, South Africa, Cameroon, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Brazil as well as many different groups in Nigeria and the Philippines. This year’s number of brand audit actions has tripled compared to last year.
The results of this year’s global brand audits will be revealed and showcased in a report scheduled for release in the coming weeks. Last year, the results were consolidated in a report entitled Branded: In Search of the World’s Top Corporate Polluters vol. 1 which revealed that among the world’s most polluting brands are multinational companies Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Danone, Mondelez International, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Perfetti van Melle, Mars Incorporated, and Colgate-Palmolive.
The top three companies alone (Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé) accounted for 14% of the branded plastic pollution found in the six regions where the audits were conducted. These worldwide coordinated brand audits have been putting much pressure on companies to be responsible and accountable for the “branded pollution” that they have been causing. It has also emboldened the Break Free From Plastic movement to issue a Corporate Leadership Challenge in October 2018 and to reinforce its corporate call on the 3Rs: reveal how much plastic goes into markets and environments each year; reduce the amount of plastic produced and packaged; and reinvent how goods are packaged and delivered.//ends
About BFFP – #breakfreefromplastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in September 2016, over 1,500 non-governmental organizations and individuals from across the world have joined the movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and to push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. These organizations share the common values of environmental protection and social justice, which guide their work at the community level and represent a global, unified vision. www.breakfreefromplastic.org.
Notes to Editors:
To view the brand audit toolkit, click here.
To read last year’s Brand Audit report, click here.
Shilpi Chhotray, Senior Communications Officer (Global+U.S.), Break Free From Plastic
email@example.com | +1 703 400 9986
Matt Franklin, Communications Officer for Europe, Break Free From Plastic
firstname.lastname@example.org | +44 7923 373831
Jed Alegado, Communications Officer for Asia Pacific, Break Free from Plastic
email@example.com | +63 917 607 0248
Jakarta, 17th of July 2019. On Thursday, 23rd of May 2019, the Supreme Court through the Court Decision Number 29 P/HUM/2019 decided to reject the judicial review from the Indonesian Plastic Recycling Association (ADUPI), CV Cahya Jaya, and PT Hartono Sinar Cemerlang Plasindo. The Supreme Court ruled that Bali Governor Regulation No. 97 of 2018 concerning Single-Use Plastics Ban is in accordance with higher regulations.
“The effort to avoid single-use plastics is a concrete step in reducing plastic waste according to Waste Management Act Number 18 of 2008, which is done by prohibiting, and/or limiting its production, distribution, sales, and/or use,” said Tiza Mafira, Executive Director of Gerakan Indonesia Diet Kantong Plastik.
This is in accordance with the principle of decentralisation in accordance with Local Government Act Number 23 of 2014 where the local government has the authority to make regional policies to regulate its own government affairs.
“Based on Government Regulation No. 81 of 2012 concerning Household Waste Management, provincial policies and strategies in waste management are stipulated by a Governor Regulation. This is an opportunity for other governors who have strong commitments like Bali to issue the same regulation. Hopefully the national government will also be exploring a similar opportunity,” explained Henri Subagiyo, Executive Director of the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL).
“This decision provides significant legal support for efforts to reduce plastic waste in Indonesia,” said Andri Gunawan Wibisana, Environmental Law Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Indonesia.
Based on various kinds of considerations, it is evident that the plastic bags, plastic straws, and Styrofoam ban is not contradictory with the Waste Management Act, Legal Drafting Act, Human Rights Act, and the Governmental Administration Act.
“We appreciate the judges for applying human rights law appropriately, including inserting our opinions into the ruling. Hopefully it will be a positive precedent for the realisation of a healthy environment,” said Executive Director of Amnesty International Indonesia, Usman Hamid.
In a press release distributed by the Bali Provincial Government, it was stated that with this Supreme Court Decision, all parties must comply with and implement the contents of the Governor of Bali Province Regulation No. 97 of 2018 to maintain the sanctity and harmony of Bali’s nature and its contents in accordance with the Vision of “Nangun Sat Kerthi Loka Bali” through the Development Pattern of Planned Universe towards the New Era of Bali.
The Bali Provincial Government and Krama Bali also gave their highest appreciation and gratitude to all parties who have shown a commitment to the preservation of the natural environment. In the press release, the Bali Provincial Government also stated that other local governments throughout Indonesia need not hesitate nor fear to make policy regulations to realise a clean, green and beautiful Indonesian nature.
This court decision is certainly a good precedent for other local governments that are dealing with the plastic pollution problem and plan to issue single-use plastics ban.
Download press release here.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MANILA, Philippines (June 28, 2019) — As the G20 summit opens in Osaka, Japan, a coalition of more than 800 environmental organizations worldwide is challenging the heads of state to show leadership in tackling the plastic pollution crisis by addressing overproduction, rather than focusing on waste. The proposed voluntary marine plastics framework does not address the fundamental cause of plastic pollution: the overproduction of plastic..
“As the second-largest consumer of plastic in the world, Japan should show leadership by reducing consumption and production of plastic, especially single-use plastics,” said Beau Baconguis, Asia Pacific Plastics Campaigner of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and concurrently Asia Pacific coordinator of the global #breakfreefromplastic movement.
Two weeks ago, a meeting of G20 environmental ministers in Japan resulted in a voluntary initiative to share best practices and establish standards for tracking marine plastic waste, but it stopped short of setting clear indicators or a timeline for progress. It is also largely an implementation framework for the “G20 action plan on marine litter” adopted at the G20 Hamburg Summit in Germany in 2017. The 2017 action plan focuses mostly on plastic waste and marine plastics, rather than on accelerating production and consumption, or impacts on land, air, and freshwater ecosystems.
“Plastic pollutes throughout its lifecycle — from oil and gas extraction to production all the way to final disposal. It is not only a marine litter issue. It is more importantly an overproduction issue. The G20 and Japan need to deal with the plastic pollution crisis in a holistic manner,” added Baconguis.
Most recently, Japan has announced setting aside USD 18.6 million to promote waste incineration in Southeast Asian countries. Through public-private partnerships, waste-to-energy (WTE) incineration plants will find their way to Indonesia, Philippines, and Vietnam.
“WTE Incineration directly undermines waste reduction, reuse and recycling, and incinerating plastics exacerbates climate change, and creates toxic pollution and hazardous ash. If Japan and other G20 governments are serious about resolving the plastic pollution crisis and about responding to the climate emergency, they must stop using this outdated technology and stop pushing it on other countries,” said Sirine Rached, Global Policy Advocate at GAIA.
“There is no solution to the plastic problem or to climate change that allows the industry to continue growing at 4% per year. It is time for the G-20 to rein in the oil, gas, and petrochemical industries starting with broad bans on single-use plastics,” Rached added.
A 2018 UN Environment Programme report identified Japan as the world’s second largest consumer of single-use plastic packaging per person — behind the United States. G-20 nations produce half of the world’s plastic waste. Abe, who chairs the summit, has already given his intentions to prioritize this issue at the G20 summit and through domestic policies in Japan.
According to a recent Greenpeace East Asia report, Japan is also the world’s second largest exporter of plastic waste, behind the United States. fter China stopped accepting plastic waste imports in 2018, several Southeast Asian nations became new targets.
“Japan and the G20 need to get their plastic addiction under control. Instead of pointing the finger at Southeast Asian countries while dumping plastic waste on them, the G20 needs to address its own overproduction and consumption of plastic,” said Neil Tangri, Science and Policy Director for GAIA.
Jed Alegado, Communications Officer, Break Free From Plastic
firstname.lastname@example.org | +63 917-6070248
Sherma Benosa, Communications Officer, GAIA Asia Pacific
email@example.com | +63 917-8157570
Sonia Astudillo, Communications Officer, GAIA Asia Pacific
firstname.lastname@example.org | +63 917-5969286
About BFFP – #breakfreefromplastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in September 2016, over 1,400 non-governmental organizations from across the world have joined the movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and to push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. These organizations share the common values of environmental protection and social justice, which guide their work at the community level and represent a global, unified vision. www.breakfreefromplastic.org.
About GAIA – Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives is a worldwide alliance of more than 800 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 countries whose ultimate vision is a just, toxic-free world without incineration. www.no-burn.org
A sweeping “circular economy” bill in the California legislature aims to drastically reduce plastic waste and boost domestic recycling.
The ubiquity of plastic in our lives is leaving a mark — on the geologic record, in remote regions of the Earth, in the bodies of 90 percent of seabirds. Our oceans are a toxic soup, swirling with an estimated 50 million tons of plastic waste. But the tide is changing.
Mounting global pressure to curb plastic pollution is gaining steam. A significant leap came last year with the European Union’s vote to ban single-use plastic items by 2021 and boost bottle recycling 90 percent by 2025. On June 10 Canada announced it would follow Europe’s lead.
In the United States, efforts to reduce plastic waste have so far been piecemeal — bans on specific items, like plastic bags, and only in certain municipalities. But California could help the country take a massive leap forward.
At the end of May, the California Senate passed S.B. 54, the California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, introduced by Senator Ben Allen and modeled after the European effort. A day later, the state’s assembly passed identical legislation, A.B. 1080, introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. If the bills clear opposite houses and earn the governor’s signature, it will be groundbreaking.
“We haven’t seen anything like this elsewhere in the U.S.,” says Angela Howe, legal director of Surfrider, a nonprofit devoted to clean oceans and beaches, which is part of a coalition of organizations working in support of the legislation and reducing plastic pollution.
The focus of the legislation is on producer responsibility — both reducing the amount of waste generated and making sure what is absolutely necessary is either compostable or recyclable. On average only 9 percent of plastics are recycled in the United States, and that already-modest number is expected to decrease even further as more countries follow China’s lead in closing their doors to waste exports from the United States and elsewhere.
Plastic isn’t just washing up on beaches, it’s piling up at landfills, making the crisis in the country even more urgent and expensive.
Plastic washes ashore with other marine litter. (Photo by Bo Eide, public domain)
As written now the legislation would require manufacturers and retailers in California to reduce the waste generated by single-use packaging and products by 75 percent by 2030 through producing less plastic, recycling more of it, making reusable packaging, or using compostable materials. It would also set guidelines for manufacturers of single-use plastic packaging and products that would ensure that 20 percent of their products are recycled by 2024, 40 percent by 2028, and 75 percent by 2030.
“The single-use plastic crisis is so pervasive that we’re seeing microplastics in the tiniest plankton to the largest whales,” says Ashley Blacow-Draeger, Pacific policy and communications manager at Oceana, which is helping to support the legislation. “It just drives home the message that we can’t recycle our way out of this crisis. We need really strong, bold and timely action now and we don’t have any more time to wait to address the issue.”
Previous efforts to tackle banning or restricting items like foam food containers, plastic bags and plastic straws has been tantamount to winning battles but not winning the war, says Stiv Wilson, director of campaigns for the Story of Stuff, which is producing a film about the global fight against plastic pollution and is a leading coalition partner supporting the legislation.
“If we’re going to fix the system, we have to actually take a systemic approach,” he says.
He admits that regulating the materials economy isn’t as easy as a simple message like banning bags, but it’s the only effective way to tackle the problem.
One of the biggest issues is that there’s simply too much plastic, which is why the bill has an emphasis on source reduction, he says.
“We have to get to a manageable supply to be able to create a reasonable demand,” says Wilson. “Once that lever gets pulled where there is a statutory obligation on a supply chain, all of a sudden you will see investment in that supply chain to meet that demand.”
And that, advocates of the legislation say, should spur investment domestic recycling, build green jobs, and enable companies to develop alternative delivery systems for products meant to create reusability instead of disposability.
The potential benefits would be far-reaching — aiding not just oceans, but wildlife and human health, as well as economies, says Blacow-Draeger.
“It’s shocking how expensive it is for cities and counties to remediate all the single-use plastics waste that is being produced,” she says. “The hope with these pieces of legislation is that they will actually lessen the burden on municipalities and on ratepayers by not producing as much waste to have to process in the future.”
For many industries it would also be a big change.
“It wouldn’t just be the one major plastic bag manufacturer that’s affected,” says Howe. “It’s everything from grocery stores to the natural gas plants that make plastics to retailers and manufacturers.”
Proponents of the legislation say they anticipate pushback from these industries as the bills go through committee in the opposite houses over the next few months. The Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) didn’t return a request for comment, but an industry publication, Plastics Today, reported that the association was urging legislators to vote against the bills: “PLASTICS notes that it has attempted to work with the bills’ sponsors ‘to try and redirect the bills toward policies that are proven to reduce litter and increase diversion rates. Unfortunately, we’ve been unable to have the bills amended to a point where we can support them,’” according to the publication.
Wilson says that the comprehensive nature of the legislation is the only way to effectively reduce plastic pollution, and with California being the fifth biggest economy in the world, the impact of this legislation is likely to be felt in other states.
“I think it’s fair to say that we have a history of seeing manufacturers conform to California laws,” he says. “We saw it with auto emissions — it’s a big enough market that it should spur change across the industry.”
For that ripple effect to happen, California first needs to pass its landmark legislation.
The bills will now need to clear the natural resources and appropriations committees in the opposite houses of their origin before having a chance at a floor vote by Sept. 13. If they pass those hurdles and earn the governor’s signature, the legislation would set a high bar for other states.
“I think it is a line in the sand that essentially says if we don’t take this approach, we don’t solve the problem,” says Wilson. “It’s not only trying to solve a problem, it’s trying to shift the narrative on how you solve the problem. This is actually an expression of the world we want and one we think that can work, and absent that, we’re a dog chasing its tail.”
Photo by Rick Loomis, Los Angeles Times.
Just one day after Senate passes companion measure, AB 1080 approved to phase out top trash items contributing to global pollution crisis
SACRAMENTO–Acknowledging the worldwide environmental devastation and health problems wrought by plastic and non-recycled trash, both houses of the California State Legislature have now approved identical first-of-their-kind measures to dramatically reduce plastic and packaging waste and jumpstart the in-state clean recycling economy.
Senate Bill 54 (Allen) and Assembly Bill 1080 (Gonzalez), together known as the California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, attack the trash crisis at both ends — both before a product is ever created or purchased, and after a single-use item is ready for disposal. The measures help businesses transition from single-use plastic containers to reusable or compostable packaging with reasonable timelines to make changes in order to achieve an overall reduction of 75 percent by the year 2030. The measures also call for incentives for in-state manufacturing using recycled materials. Together, these requirements will cut back on the amount and type of trash going into landfills and litter in neighborhoods, waterways, and the ocean, which will reduce costs to taxpayers for disposal and clean-up.
By increasing recycling rates and incentivizing the in-state manufacture of goods using recycled materials, the Act will end California’s existing reliance on other countries to take its waste, and it will boost the state economy. Currently, California waste and recycling industries are struggling to adapt to China’s 2017 “National Sword” policy to stop accepting other nations’ trash. This has resulted in Californians’ garbage and recyclables piling up at local waste facilities, going into landfills, or being shipped to other countries in Asia that cannot process the sheer amount of trash coming to them. California’s local governments — and, therefore, ratepayers — are experiencing increased costs as a result. But if fully implemented, the Act’s 75 percent recycling rate will not only help reduce California’s need to ship meaningful quantities of waste out-of-state, it is expected to double the existing 125,000 California jobs in recycling and manufacturing.
Plastic and single-use packaging contribute to a variety of environmental ills. As plastic breaks down in the environment, it becomes microplastic particles that leach chemicals into waterways and ocean environments, or is eaten by wildlife and marine creatures. Further, single-use items don’t simply cause pollution; they also contribute to the climate crisis. Plastic items, in particular, are derived from fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gases as they break down. Reducing California’s reliance on these items is critical for the state to meet its climate and waste diversion commitments.
Plastic and single-use items also contaminate drinking water sources, food supplies, and even air. Human exposure to plastic and its associated toxins has been linked to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption and other serious health problems.
The measures are supported by a broad coalition of environmental organizations, health advocates, green businesses, local governments, and labor. AB 1080 now goes to the State Senate, while SB 54 heads to the State Assembly.
For more information about the measures, see the bill text or view the fact sheet here.
What others are saying about the California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act:
Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), joint author of SB 54 and co-author of companion measure AB 1080: “We need to phase out single-use plastics as quickly as possible. These plastics are ruining entire ecosystems, poisoning our oceans and waterways, and killing wildlife. It’s time to transition to better alternatives and to send a powerful signal to industry to innovate and to create more sustainable products.”
Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), joint author of AB 1080 and principal co-author of SB 54: “Our decades of overusing non-recyclable and non-compostable single-use products has set the stage for what could be one of the greatest man-made ecological and environmental crises in history. The longer we go without taking action, the higher the costs to our environment, animal life, public health, and our economy. These bills are an important step forward and a direly-needed investment in the health of our planet.”
Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), joint author of AB 1080: “Tossing our single-use plastics in recycling bins is no longer good enough. If we don’t step up and change our ways, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish by 2050. California can turn an environmental crisis around with bold plastic reduction policies like this one. Companies must re-use materials they’ve already made.”
Dianna Cohen, Co-Founder and CEO, Plastic Pollution Coalition: “Plastic Pollution Coalition urges your support of this legislation to dramatically reduce plastic and packaging waste in California. It’s time for California to take the next step towards Zero Waste to protect human and animal health, waterways, oceans, and our environment for years to come.”
Dan Jacobson, Director, Environment California (email@example.com): “Nothing we use for a few minutes should end up polluting our environment for thousands of years. The time of the single-use plastic container needs to go the way of the dinosaur.”
Geoff Shester, California Campaign Director and Senior Scientist, Oceana: “Solving the plastics problem in our oceans will take a concerted effort from the companies that are producing and selling these materials. This legislation will create the framework desperately needed to turn the tide on our single-use plastics problem. We applaud these state leaders and urge that these bills remain strong in their commitment to meaningfully and drastically reduce the impacts of single-use products. As the fifth-largest economy in the world, California has the opportunity to remain an environmental leader on responsible plastics policy and inspire national and international change.”
Stiv Wilson, Campaigns Director, The Story of Stuff Project (Stiv@storyofstuff.org): “This represents California drawing a line in the sand on plastic pollution. As plastic production skyrockets, we’re witnessing the growing environmental and financial cost of attempting to manage the unmanageable. Without a policy like this, we won’t address the scale of the problem. This is California making a quantum leap in the fight against plastic pollution.”
Kathryn Phillips, Director, Sierra Club California (firstname.lastname@example.org): “We are in the midst of a global health crisis. Single-use packaging and product waste pollutes our environment and harms humans and wildlife. California must dramatically reduce the amount of single-use packaging and products. We must also ensure that these products are reusable, recyclable or compostable. Sierra Club California thanks the legislators who have taken a bold step forward in addressing this urgent crisis.”
Katherine O’Dea, Executive Director, Save Our Shores (email@example.com): “Comprehensive legislation like this is exactly what is needed to address the plastic pollution crisis we have reached. The framework it puts in place provides the kind of flexibility that is required to address various single use packaging formats and some of the most ubiquitous plastic products with a best approach for each. At the same time, the legislation mandates significant source reduction while driving recycling rates to levels we should have been able to achieve voluntarily but have failed to for decades. Save Our Shores applauds our state legislators for taking bold action.”
Shilpi Chhotray, Senior Communications Officer, Break Free From Plastic (firstname.lastname@example.org): “China may have set the trend of refusing foreign plastic waste but now other countries are following suit, including Malaysia, Thailand, and India. It’s time for California to set the gold standard for the US in reducing the overall global production and consumption of plastics and redesign for their reuse. This type of systemic legislation is crucially needed to address the global plastic pollution crisis.”
Christopher Chin, Executive Director, The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education (COARE) (email@example.com): “Waste management is an important part of the conversation, but it cannot effectively address the deluge of plastic pollution we all face. We cannot recycle our way out of this problem, and it is imperative that we, as a society, support upstream solutions considering the full lifecycle of plastics – including its production and consumption. This legislation begins providing the framework for an approach that the world wants, and that the world so desperately needs.”
Sophie Haddad, State Board Chair, CALPIRG Students (firstname.lastname@example.org): “As students and young people, we are the generation who will have to face the worst levels of ocean pollution. We know that if we don’t act now, our environment will be even more devastated by trash. We have to do everything we can to stop using single-use plastics, and SB 54 and AB 1080 are great steps in the right direction.”
Marce Gutiérrez-Graudiņš, Founder and Executive Director – AZUL (email@example.com): “From production to disposal, single-use plastic and packaging waste negatively affect humans, wildlife and the environment, with a disproportionate impact on marginalized communities. This legislation is a strong step towards remedying this environmental justice crisis. Mil Gracias to supporting legislators for their strong leadership!”
Heidi Sanborn, Executive Director of National Stewardship Action Council (firstname.lastname@example.org): “Producers of wasteful single-use products need to rethink their design and share in the responsibility for those end of life costs previously externalized onto the public sector and the environment do achieve a circular economy. We need well-designed durable, reusable products and the product producers are the only ones who can change that and why we support SB 54/AB 1080.”
Angela Howe, Legal Director, Surfrider Foundation (email@example.com): “Surfrider Foundation stands in strong support of the Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, which will help Californians rise above plastics and begin to free our ocean of the plague of plastic pollution. We applaud the state legislature for taking this critical step to usher in forward thinking policy and pave the way toward zero waste.”
Anu Natarajan, Legislative Affairs Manager, Stopwaste (ANatarajan@stopwaste.org): “StopWaste is pleased to support SB 54 and AB 1080 because these bills constitute meaningful progress toward managing packaging and plastic waste, which are both among StopWaste’s top priorities.”
Nick Lapis, Director of Advocacy, Californians Against Waste (firstname.lastname@example.org): “These monumental bipartisan votes on SB 54 and AB 1080 show that California will continue to lead on tackling environmental pollution that our federal government actively ignores. We simply can’t continue to trash our planet.”
Contact: Arianna Smith