Our pervasive plastic pollution problem is reflected in the sad story of a dead whale with a stomach full of plastic; we now have more plastic than fish in our oceans. Last October, the first study was published finding microplastics in human stool. Plastics are causing health problems for both people and ocean beings. The problem goes even deeper when we realize that plastic is made from fossil fuels—plastics are petrochemicals.
This is why we desperately need SB 54 and AB 1080, companion bills known as the “California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act” in the California State Legislature. The bills require manufacturers and retailers in California to reduce single-use plastic packaging and products by 75 percent by 2030. After 2030, all single-use plastics sold in the state would need to be compostable or recyclable, making plastic resale value sufficient enough to be economically worth recycling.
While most of us are already using reusable water bottles and reusable shopping and storage bags, a quick scan around our homes will reveal plastic packaging everywhere. We try to limit using plastic, but personally it is a losing battle. To create real change, we need laws that force producers, who are creating the ubiquitous plastic packaging and single-use plastic products, to provide truly green packaging. With SB 54 and AB 1080, consumers would finally be able to reduce the use of plastic as a way of life.
The fight to reduce plastic production is even more imperative with our climate crisis. As countries across the world work to reduce dependence on oil and gas, Big Oil expands plastic production, which has a high profit margin. Greenhouse gas emissions are generated across the life cycle of a plastic product, from extraction to production to transportation to disposal. When governments move to ban plastics, Big Oil spends over a billion dollars in recycling campaigns to make the public think that using plastic is okay if it is recycled. Unfortunately, the US has relied primarily upon China to recycle plastics, and as of January 2018, China stopped accepting our plastic recycling. Without our own recycling facilities, US cities are burning or throwing into landfills enormous amounts of plastic waste, leading to toxic plastic smoke and landfill problems.
Assemblymember Phil Ting, democrat representing San Francisco and a joint author of AB 1080 stated, “Tossing our single-use plastics in recycling bins is no longer good enough. If we don’t step up and change our ways, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish by 2050. California can turn an environmental crisis around with bold plastic reduction policies like this one. Companies must re-use materials they’ve already made.”
California leads the nation in climate solutions and has the opportunity to be a leader on plastic pollution. The more people who understand the connections between these two, the quicker we can achieve solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions along with the environmental and health problems associated with plastics. In order for SB 54 and AB 1080 to move forward this legislative session, they must pass out of the next round of policy committee hearings by July 10th.
Call your legislators today and show your support for The California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act.
SB 54 and AB 1080 will put us on track to combat climate change, reduce pollution, and create healthier communities and oceans.
Learn more at www.camustlead.org.