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California bill would reduce single-use plastic products 25%

Shampoo AP.jpeg
Posted at 7:51 PM, Jun 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-18 20:51:01-04

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — An ambitious California proposal aims to reduce plastic production for single-use products like shampoo bottles and food wrappers by 25% starting next decade, part of an effort to rein in pollution from the ubiquitous material.

A bill introduced late Thursday aims to bring environmental and business groups together to avoid a similar ballot measure slated to go before voters in November. But at least two of the ballot measure’s three proponents aren’t yet on board.

Democratic Sen. Ben Allen, the bill’s author, said that if passed the proposal would make California a leader in reducing plastic waste by focusing on eliminating plastic at the source, not just recycling it once produced.

“The truth is we just need less crap out there — less plastic out there in general,” Allen said Friday.

Plastics have long been a target of environmental groups. Most plastic is not recycled and millions of tons are polluting the world’s oceans, hurting wildlife and showing up in drinking water. Various efforts are underway to rein in such pollution, with states attempting to reduce the use of plastic grocery bags, straws and other products. This month the federal government said it will phase out the sale of single-use plastics like water bottles at national parks.

An ambitious California proposal aims to reduce plastic production for single-use products like shampoo bottles and food wrappers by 25% starting next decade, part of an effort to rein in pollution from the ubiquitous material.

A bill introduced late Thursday aims to bring environmental and business groups together to avoid a similar ballot measure slated to go before voters in November. But at least two of the ballot measure’s three proponents aren’t yet on board.

Democratic Sen. Ben Allen, the bill’s author, said that if passed the proposal would make California a leader in reducing plastic waste by focusing on eliminating plastic at the source, not just recycling it once produced.

“The truth is we just need less crap out there — less plastic out there in general,” Allen said Friday.

Plastics have long been a target of environmental groups. Most plastic is not recycled and millions of tons are polluting the world’s oceans, hurting wildlife and showing up in drinking water. Various efforts are underway to rein in such pollution, with states attempting to reduce the use of plastic grocery bags, straws and other products. This month the federal government said it will phase out the sale of single-use plastics like water bottles at national parks.

“We will pull the initiative if/when the bill that the Governor signs merits the sacrifice. Not a day sooner. We are nowhere close to that,” Linda Escalante of the Natural Resources Defense Council and a proponent of the measure said in a statement.

Caryl Hart, vice chair of the California Coastal Commission, and Michael Sangiacomo, former president of the waste management company Recology, are the other two backers of the ballot measure. Sangiacomo said in a statement the legislation doesn’t do enough for him to support pulling the ballot measure. He didn’t elaborate further.

The ballot measure requires a 25% cut in plastic production, but starting two years earlier. It would ban the use of Styrofoam and similar products by food vendors. The legislation wouldn’t do that; instead it would require 20% of such products to be recycled. Anja Brandon, U.S. Plastics Policy Analyst at the Ocean Conservancy, said that amounts to a “de facto ban” because the material can’t be recycled.

The ballot measure puts more regulatory power in the hands of the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery and puts a 1-cent fee on all single-use plastic products. The measure’s proponents say the legislation gives the industry too much power to regulate itself.

The Ocean Conservancy is one of the environmental groups backing the bill. Brandon called it the strongest plastics legislation in the country. Her organization estimated the bill would reduce plastic in the state by 23 million tons over 10 years.

“Walk down a grocery aisle, anything you see (that’s plastic) is going to be affected by this,” she said.