Safer Water, Less Plastic, and More: Wrapping up California’s 2021 Legislative Session

Last week marked the end of the 2021 legislative session. Here's an update on the bills CALPIRG supported and helped to pass.

Clean water

A lot is happening right now in California—from rising COVID cases, and raging wildfires fueled by climate change, to this week’s recall election.

But in the face of our many challenges, CALPIRG is continuing to get toxic chemicals out of our products, reduce plastic pollution, advocate for consumers, and protect the public interest. 

Last week marked the end of the 2021 legislative session, and I wanted to share a quick update on the bills CALPIRG supported and helped to pass.

Protecting consumers from toxic chemicals

AB 100 (Holden) restricts the amount of lead seeping from faucets and fixtures to no more than 1 microgram, ensuring that faucets and fixtures in California are practically lead-free. The bill sets the nation’s most stringent lead leaching limit for faucets.

As I told Pasadena Now, “Lead in our drinking water is dangerous for our communities, especially children, and we need to do everything we can to get the lead out.”

CALPIRG also supported the Safer Food Packaging and Cookware Act, which will eliminate toxic PFAS chemicals in paper food packaging and prohibit misleading advertising about chemicals in cookware.

Eliminating unnecessary single-use plastic

Less than 15 percent of single-use plastic in California is recycled. One reason? Many plastic manufacturers use the well-known chasing arrows symbol on items even when the item cannot be recycled in the state of California.

After CALPIRG canvassers spent a summer knocking on doors, collecting petition signatures, and meeting with legislators, SB 343 passed through the legislature. The bill reduces consumer confusion by restricting producers from placing recycling labels on non-recyclable products. This is a huge step to ensure truth and transparency for consumers.

The legislature also passed AB 1276, another CALPIRG-backed bill that requires restaurants to only offer single-use utensils and condiments on request. 

Although this is great progress, we know that we have much more to do to reduce waste, protect public health, and advocate for consumers. 


We’re disappointed that SB 54, the Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, did not get a vote this year. We’ll continue organizing to pass this important comprehensive reform to move our state beyond unnecessary and harmful single-use plastics.


We’re also disappointed that both legislation to create the Office of Health Care Affordability and the California Medical Device Right to Repair Act (SB 605) stalled in the legislature this year. 


As CALPIRG’s Right to Repair Advocate Kevin O’Reilly put it, “This is not only a disappointing result for healthcare professionals but it also puts patients and public health at risk. The pandemic has made clear the need to allow on-site technicians to fix medical devices as soon as they break. Without Right to Repair, manufacturers’ control on the medical device repair market will continue to delay patient care and drive up the cost.”


I’m proud of all we were able to accomplish this year, and I’m hopeful that with more organizing, public education, and outreach we will be able to keep moving California forward and pass the bills we weren’t able to this year.


Jenn Engstrom

State Director, CALPIRG

Jenn directs CALPIRG’s advocacy efforts, and is a leading voice in Sacramento and across the state on protecting public health, consumer protections and defending our democracy. Jenn has served on the CALPIRG board for the past two years before stepping into her current role. Most recently, as the deputy national director for the Student PIRGs, she helped run our national effort to mobilize hundreds of thousands of students to vote. She led CALPIRG’s organizing team for years and managed our citizen outreach offices across the state, running campaigns to ban single-use plastic bags, stop the overuse of antibiotics, and go 100% renewable energy. Jenn lives in Los Angeles, where she enjoys spending time at the beach and visiting the many amazing restaurants in her city.

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