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Lawmakers Say California is Being Overrun with Plastic Litter

AB 1080 would ban single use plastic containers in California

By Katy Grimes, May 30, 2019 1:53 pm

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D- San Diego) and Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) both have bills proposing to phase out single-use plastic containers by 2030. In the Assembly Thursday, Gonzalez warned that recycling plastic containers “is a huge cost to local governments, and it’s going to grow, and that means it will be a huge cost to taxpayers.”

“Our environment is being overrun with litter,” Gonzalez said. “Low-income communities like mine see the most.” Gonzalez said her bill would require a reduction of plastic single-use containers by 75 percent by 2030.

Assembly Bill 1080 and Senate Bill 54 would establish “a comprehensive framework to address the pollution and waste crisis, dramatically reducing the amount of single-use waste generated in the California and requiring the remaining packaging and products to be truly recyclable or compostable,” according to Gonzalez.

China recently passed its “National Sword” policy no longer accepting California’s recyclables. These materials are now being stockpiled or landfilled in-state according to the Los Angeles Times, and puts California’s chances of meeting its 2020 75 percent recycling goal in jeopardy.  These bills are supposed to address the problem of California no longer being able to export many of the recyclables and must now recycle them domestically. 

The Plastics Industry Association says the real challenge is making it easier for everyone to better dispose of single-use products by enhancing our recycling and recovery technologies.

AB 1080 specifically imposes strict reduction, recyclability, and compostability mandates on plastics manufacturers. It requires manufacturers to meet specific recycling rates, denying them the ability to sell their manufactured good in the state if they do not comply. 

A recent study “led by Jenna Jambeck, an environmental engineer at the University of Georgia, analyzed plastic waste levels in the world’s oceans. They found that China and Indonesia are the top sources of plastic bottles, bags and other rubbish clogging up global sea lanes. Together, both nations account for more than a third of plastic detritus in global waters, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. The original source data can be found here.

Researchers found that “in 2010, 8.8 million metric tons of mismanaged plastic waste came from China with an estimated 3.53 million metric tons of it ending up in the ocean. A total of 3.2 million metric tons of mismanaged plastic waste came from Indonesia and it is estimated that 1.29 million metric tons became plastic marine debris. The United States is also guilty of polluting oceans with plastic, but at a much lower level than China. Annually, 0.11 million metric tons of waterborne plastic garbage comes from the United States,” as the chart above shows.

Despite these findings, Assembly Democrats who spoke in support of the bill issued dire warnings about California’s plastic waste. Assemblyman Ian Calderon (D-Whittier) told of whales landing dead on beaches with “30 pounds of plastic containers inside of them.” A Google search finds that whales have indeed landed on beaches with significant amounts of plastic in their bellies – in Indonesia, Thailand, the coast of Spain, and in the Philippines.

“We are a leader and trendsetter on a global level,” Calderon said.

Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) said if you ask any school child they can tell you about the plastic crisis. And she criticized the Legislature for not having the political will to address this with manufacturers. “We have allowed manufacturers off the hook for too long,” adding that they need to pay for the cleanup. “Our dying oceans are paying testament of that,” Friedman said.

“I can talk trash all day long,” said Assemblywoman Susan Eggman (D-Stockton).

“If you are an environmentalist, you care deeply about this,” Gonzalez said. “If you’ve got children and you see the waste, or if you’ve got 5th graders, trust me, they come home with all of the information about the waste patch in the ocean.”

AB 1080 passed 42-14, with 24 Assembly members not voting – 16 Democrats and 8 Republicans.

Katy Grimes

Katy Grimes, the Editor of the California Globe, is a long-time Investigative Journalist covering the California State Capitol, and the co-author of California's War Against Donald Trump: Who Wins? Who Loses?
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3 thoughts on “Lawmakers Say California is Being Overrun with Plastic Litter

  1. So….let me get this straight….

    China and Indonesia lead the world in plastic pollution of the oceans, so California signs a bill to restrict plastic usage in our country because some knucklehead assembly person (or ten) FEELS that California is a “leader and trendsetter on a global level”???

    Isn’t that kind of insane, like drinking poison and hoping someone else dies????

    Wow, California voters…. you elect some strange people as your “leaders “….

    Better crank up the recall machine PRONTO, before you REALLY screw up your lives & state….

    1. So… you’re thinking California shouldn’t have done that and instead tried to catch up with China and Indonesia?
      Not sure about your logic either. Just because California isn’t as bad as other places in the world doesn’t mean that can’t still improve and hope that others follow their lead.
      Not sure why people feel like they have to spin every positive into a negative.

      1. It’s not that we should catch up with China and Indonesia (straw man), it’s that we are eco-martyr symbolically solving a problem we do not cause. Ironically it’s Tienamen Square Massacre Anniversary (30 years ) tomorrow June 4! Sometimes I feel like Tank Man!

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