California lawmakers OK law to phase out single-use plastics

To combat a dangerous form of pollution, California lawmakers on Thursday passed the nation’s most sweeping restrictions on single-use plastics and packaging, with Governor Gavin Newsom expected to will sign the bill on Thursday.

The act kicks off a November ballot measure many lawmakers and the plastics industry hope to avoid, and it puts California at the forefront of national efforts to phase out polystyrene and other plastics. Others are released into the environment, breaking down into toxic particles and increasingly living in human blood, tissues and organs.

Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) has been trying for years to get state legislators to address the growing plastic pollution crisis but has run into opposition from the plastics industry and some food container manufacturer.

Late Wednesday night, the California Congress passed bill 67-2, with the Senate passing it on Thursday morning with 29 ayes and no “nos.” Supporters applauded.

“With this legislation, California continues its tradition of global environmental leadership – solving a big problem in a way that will move and grow markets, drive investment, and provide tools to states.” and other countries to contribute to this war, Allen said in a statement.

Over the past six months, a group of about two dozen negotiators has been working on language designed to reduce plastic, increase recycling and shift the economic burden from waste disposal to plastic manufacturers and packers – while trying to find a language that would please those manufacturers, as well as waste managers, packaging companies and environmentalists.

The bill requires that by January 1, 2028, at least 30% of plastic items sold, distributed, or imported into the state be recyclable. By 2032, that number rises to 65%. It also calls for a 25% reduction in single-use plastic waste by 2032 and allows CalRecycle to increase that percentage if the amount of plastic in the economy and waste stream increases.

In the case of expanded polystyrene, that number should reach 25% by 2025. If this number is not reached, the ubiquitous, hard-to-recycle foam plastic will be banned.

Jay Ziegler of The Nature Conservancy said: “It’s a de facto ban, noting that the current polystyrene recycling rates are so low that it’s unlikely to hit the 25% recycling target in three years. five.

Plastic waste has become a growing scourge across the nation as plastic packaging has become ubiquitous in grocery stores, fast food and other businesses, and consumers – especially during the pandemic – accepted takeaway items delivered in single-use packaging. As a result, the waste pollutes the marine environment and clogs landfills, partly due to challenges in plastic recycling, including China’s decision to end imports of plastic waste for several years. before.

The bill is based on a policy concept known as Extended Producer Responsibility, which shifts responsibility for waste from consumers, towns and cities to polluters. It also provides plastics companies with extensive oversight and authority over program management, implementation and reporting, through the Manufacturers Accountability Organization, which will include representatives in the industry.
Among the various tasks, the team will be responsible for collecting fees from its participating organizations to pay for the program, as well as a $500 million annual fee that will go towards the pollution reduction fund. plastic.

CalRecycle has absolute authority over the program.

Negotiators, including Heidi Sanborn, director of the California Regulatory Council, said past failures in the expanded Manufacturer’s Liability law have affected how the law is drafted, allowing for The author identifies areas that can be abused or overlooked.

In 2010, the state created a similar manufacturer liability law that regulates carpet recycling. Monitored by the industry, the goal is to recycle 24% by 2020. Recycling rates decrease once the program is established. CalRecycle sued the corporation for $3.3 million in 2017 for failing to meet its goal, and in 2021 it has settled for $1.175 million.

In another case involving California’s Paint Care program, manufacturers ultimately sued the state and used funding from the program to cover their litigation costs.

The language in this new plastic bill includes clear dates and consequences if it fails, including fines of $50,000 per day for any company or “entity” that fails to comply with the law, as well as as a guide on how the fees collected can and cannot be used.

“We have learned from past mistakes,” says Sanborn. “This law is firm.”

Not everyone is happy.

The American Chemistry Council’s vice president for plastics, Joshua Baca, released a statement Wednesday saying that although his organization has been working with Allen and negotiators for months, the version ultimately “not the ultimate law to propel California toward a circular economy.”

He said the law’s definition of recycling “needs to be improved and made clearer so that innovative, new technologies that remove difficult-to-recycle plastics from the environment and landfills are considered to be achieved.” circulation goals in the law.”

The chemical trade group – which includes the world’s largest plastics, fossil fuels and chemicals companies – is now urging the US Environmental Protection Agency to bring the conversion of plastics into energy and fuel, through pyrolysis and gasification, as recycling methods.

The bill explicitly notes that these forms of plastic conversion – which cause pollution – will not be considered “recycled”.

Rep. Luz Rivas (D-North Hollywood) said: “The bill, with my committee’s amendments, prohibits chemical recycling and includes recognition of protecting disadvantaged communities and incomes. low income”. “I wouldn’t let the bill out of my committee if I felt that a chemical recycling plant could be built in my community.”

https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2022-06-30/california-new-law-phase-out-single-use-plastics-containers California lawmakers OK law to phase out single-use plastics

Edmund DeMarche

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