Landmark plastic waste legislation advances out of committee

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California’s Plastic Pollution Producer Responsibility Act (SB 54), introduced by Sen. Ben Allen of Santa Monica, passed the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday with a 9-0-2 vote. This landmark anti-plastic pollution legislation mandates a first-in-the-nation reduction in single-use foodware and packaging, requires single-use items to actually be recyclable or compostable by 2032 and holds producers financially responsible for the plastic they generate. 

The latest version of the bill comes after years of failed attempts in the legislature, followed by months of negotiations between lawmakers and environmental and industry groups.  

There is also an initiative on the November ballot that would enact similar measures to address plastic pollution. Proponents of the initiative, however, can pull it from the ballot if SB 54 becomes law. While similar to the ballot measure in that they both require a 25% reduction in plastic foodware and packaging and that all those items be recyclable or compostable, SB 54 is more detailed, requires that single-use plastic not only be recyclable but actually meet a high recycled rate and has a clearer definition of recycling in order to avoid incineration and other harmful practices. 

SB 54 now moves to the Assembly Appropriations and needs to pass both houses by the end of the week.

In response to the committee passage, Jenn Engstrom, State Director of CALPIRG, and Laura Deehan, State Director of Environment California, issued the following statements: 

“Public outcry is growing about how much unnecessary and unacceptable single-use plastic items end up littering our communities and environment,” said Jenn Engstrom, state director of CALPIRG. “This plastic doesn’t disappear. It breaks into microplastics that now contaminate every corner of the globe — even the human body. Thankfully, California once again has an opportunity to be a leader in tackling the global plastic waste crisis. If set into law, Senate Bill 54 would dramatically reduce the amount of waste that ends up contaminating our environment. We thank Assemblymember Rivas and the Assembly Natural Resources Committee for advancing this legislature and urge the State Assembly to pass SB 54 to finally start holding producers responsible for the plastic waste harming our communities.”

“Too often, we use plastic wrapping and containers for just a few minutes and then toss them into the trash. This plastic builds up in our environment, polluting our land and water for hundreds of years,” said Laura Deehan, state director of Environment California. “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. By passing Senator Allen’s updated plastics legislation this week, the California legislature can lead the country in keeping plastic waste out of the landfill and truly prioritize wildlife over waste.”