Environmentalists, legislators converge at Hermosa Beach Pier Plaza to celebrate California’s new law to reduce plastic waste

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HERMOSA BEACH, Calif. —  Environmental groups joined state legislators and city officials at Hermosa Beach Pier Plaza Sunday to celebrate this summer’s passage of the Plastic Pollution Producer Responsibility Act.

Introduced by Sen. Ben Allen of Santa Monica, this landmark anti-plastic pollution law mandates reductions in single-use foodware and packaging, requires single-use items to be recyclable or compostable by 2032 and holds plastic packaging producers financially responsible for cleaning up the waste their products create. 

“The deliberative, inclusive, bipartisan effort to design this monumental law is proof that government leaders can do hard things,” said Sen. Allen, who chairs the Legislative Environmental Caucus and the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.  “I am proud of our work that is setting the tone for environmental leadership at national and global levels, and accelerating the shift to sustainability – from design and production to consumer use and waste management.”

A version of the legislation was first introduced in 2018 amid growing concerns about the impact of single-use plastic in the environment. According to Oceana, an estimated 33 billion pounds of plastic enter the ocean every year, which is roughly equivalent to dumping a garbage truck full of plastic into the oceans every 30 seconds.

The Ocean Conservancy estimates the new law will reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the environment by 23 million tons over 10 years. It will require companies to reduce the amount of plastic they use in their products, resulting in 25% less plastic packaging and plastic foodware. The law additionally requires that all single-use food and packaging be recyclable, so less ends up in landfills and the environment. 

In addition to plastic reduction targets, the new law places the responsibility for costs of waste management and recycling on the plastic producers rather than consumers. This makes California the fourth state, following Maine, Oregon, and Colorado, to establish a producer responsibility program for single-use plastic. 

Dozens of people attended the Sunday celebration, which featured a 25-foot inflatable sea turtle, live touch tank and games. Many attendees were staff and volunteers of environmental organizations who have been calling for action to reduce plastic waste for years.   

Groups involved in the celebration included CALPIRG, Environment California, the Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, the Nature Conservancy, California Environmental Voters, the National Stewardship Action Council, Heal the Bay, and Ban SUP. 

Statements from participating legislators and organizations: 

“I am thrilled to celebrate the legislative success of SB 54, the Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act, with Senator Ben Allen, CALPIRG, Environment California, California Environmental Voters, National Stewardship Action Council, The Nature Conservancy, Oceana, Ocean Conservancy, and all environmental champions involved. SB 54 enables our state to hold plastic producers accountable for the waste they produce. This is California’s first step, but we are setting the bar for the nation. I am excited to see where this legislation will take us next. — Assemblywoman Luz Rivas (D – San Fernando Valley)

“As a principal coauthor of SB 54, I’m proud to see California leading the fight against the global crisis of plastic pollution. As a surfer who loves the beach and the ocean, I see the global crisis unfolding with mountains of single use plastic piling up onto shores around the world, strangling marine life, and breaking down into microplastics that end up in our food and water supply.  I thank Senator Allen for his leadership in fighting this crisis.  Today, let’s celebrate California’s leadership and recommit ourselves to phasing out single use plastic around the world.” — Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance)

“As a lead author, broker and ardent supporter of Senate Bill 54, I can tell you it was not written in haste. Bill author Sen. Ben Allen of Santa Monica and several other lawmakers worked tirelessly with experts from both the environmental community and industry to create the most effective measure possible. Believe me, navigating the interests of the plastic industry and the sheer magnitude of the environmental concerns was a tremendous challenge. But the final product is one generations of California residents can be proud to call another Golden State gem. That’s because we and our kids deserve a clean and healthy place to live, free of waste and contamination. We can no longer stand by while our planet is devastated by the effects of climate change, and, through SB 54, we are making a major step toward progress. I hope we have inspired other states – and nations – to do the same.” — Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys)

“This new law is a monumental step forward against the plastic waste crisis and the culmination of more than four years of organizing and advocacy. We’re excited to celebrate this progress with the legislative leaders, advocates and organizers who have been calling for this critical action to go beyond plastics and reduce waste.” — Jenn Engstrom, state director of CALPIRG.

“Nothing we use for a few minutes should pollute our ocean for hundreds of years. With millions of pieces of plastic floating in our rivers and ocean, it’s easy for birds, fish and sea turtles to mistake a small piece of plastic for food—with life-threatening consequences. With the passage of Senator Allen’s plastics pollution legislation into law, California once again becomes the nation’s leader in keeping plastic waste out of our waterways and truly putting wildlife over waste.”Laura Deehan, state director of Environment California

“SB 54, the single strongest plastics legislation we have ever seen here in the United States wouldn’t have been possible without the effort made by Californians demanding change. Crucially, SB 54 represents a massive shift away from our reliance on single-use plastics,” said Dr. Anja Brandon, U.S. Plastics Policy Analyst. “My fellow Ocean Conservancy scientists and I have calculated that the reduction mandate alone would directly eliminate nearly 23 million tons of single-use plastic packaging and foodware over the next ten years. This is equivalent to nearly 26 times the weight of the Golden Gate Bridge.”

“The significance of SB 54 is that it is the first plastic pollution law that requires a reduction of 25% of plastic waste over the next decade and truly addresses the source of the problem. Our environment, our climate and our own health require us to reduce the stream of single-use plastics all around us. This legislation came together because of the leadership of Senator Allen, Assemblymember Luz Rivas, and the willingness of key stakeholders to work together to find a solution that would create a more circular system. Now our challenge is to deliver on that agreement for the benefit of both people and nature, while California continues to show that environmental and economic prosperity can happen simultaneously.” — Jay Ziegler, Director of Policy for The Nature Conservancy

“For too long producers have externalized the cost of bad packaging choices onto people and the planet. As children, parents told us to clean up our room. Now is the time for producers to clean up their own mess. SB 54 was long overdue and we are thrilled to have played a role in its passage.” —  Heidi Sanborn, Director of the National Stewardship Action Council.

“Individual action to stop plastic pollution created a movement. But, we all know that big change only happens when corporations are held responsible and when policies mandate systemic change. What began as a people-powered movement led to California passing the strongest plastic pollution reduction policy in the country, and arguably in the world, this year. Californians should be proud of this enormous win that has raised the bar for California’s climate leadership to tackle the toughest issues in order to create a more livable future.” — Melissa Romero, Senior Legislative Manager at California Environmental Voters.

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