The environmental, public health and social costs of plastic production and pollution are staggering and will continue to grow. We are at a turning point in the crisis of plastic pollution: take action to redesign products and reduce our consumption, or allow the problem to worsen with fewer opportunities to recycle.
Since the 1960s, plastics production has increased twenty fold and today more than 300 million tons of plastic waste is generated every year around the globe. In 2019, annual global production of plastic is projected to exceed 376 million tons.
In the US, single-use plastic products and packaging account for 57% of plastic annually discarded. Even in California the recycling rate for all single-use plastic items remains less than 15% overall.
A recent analysis projects that upwards of 32% of plastic packaging ‘leaks’ directly into the environment.
Without urgent and bold action, projections estimate that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight
Research has found plastic pollution to be present in 94% of tap water samples from the US, 93% of bottled water, 90% of table salt, as well as 25% of fish and 33% of shellfish from a California fish market. A recent study has even found microplastics in human feces.
Plastic production is projected to account for 20% of global fossil fuel consumption and 15% of CO2 emissions by 2050.
China’s recent action (National Sword) to stop accepting contaminated and poorly sorted plastics has highlighted the need to rethink our current recycling system which has historically relied heavily on overseas markets.
Not all plastic is created equal. While most PET (#1) and HDPE (#2) plastic bottles and containers can, with proper incentives, be sustainably recovered and recycled over and over (closed loop recycling), most other plastic has not come close to demonstrating this potential.
Californians Against Waste is a non-profit research and advocacy organization who’s mission is to reduce or eliminate the problem materials of human consumption that threaten our oceans. We develop and promote waste reduction policies and programs.
New 2018 Legislation
SB 1335 (Allen) will reduce the amount of toxic waste that pollutes our state parks, beaches, and our oceans chokes our landfills; and litters our communities by phasing out nonrecyclable take-out food packaging from state parks, beaches and facilities.
AB 1884 (Calderon) would prohibit the provision of straws unless a customer specifically requests one, reducing an obvious, wasteful, and easily avoidable source of waste.
California's Bottle Bill (Enacted 1987) is the bottle and can take back program in which consumers pay $0.05 for containers under 24 ounces and $0.10 for containers over 24 ounces. That money is returned to consumers when they recycle their containers, or is "donated" to a curbside operator or non-profit recycler depending on how the consumers choses to recycle the container.
California’s Rigid Container Plastic Resin Labeling Requirement (Enacted 1988) requires that all plastic container sold in the state be labeled with a resin code in order to identify the chemistry of the plastic used for purposes of sorting items for recycling.
California’s Rigid Plastic Packaging Container (RPPC) Program (Enacted 1991) requires producers to either incorporate a minimum percentage of recycled content, source reduce by reducing product weight, ensure that the container is refillable or reusable, or ensure that the container reaches minimum recycling rate.
AB 258 (Krekorian, 2007) created a task force to monitor and regulate the release of preproduction plastic pellets released into the marine environment.
California's Single Use Plastic Bag Ban, SB 270 (Padilla, 2014) effectively phased out single-use plastic grocery bags. Reusable, paper, and (in certain jurisdictions) compostable plastic bags can only be distributed with a minimum 10 cent charge.
AB 888 (Bloom, 2015) bans the sale of plastic microbeads found in toothpaste, facial scrubs and other personal care products.
AB 199 (Eggman, 2015) provides financial assistance in the form of sales tax exemption on equipment purchases to businesses that process or utilized recycled feedstock
AB 2530 (Gordon, 2016) requires manufacturers to report the amount of virgin and post-consumer plastic they purchase the previous year.
AB 1005 (Gordon, 2016) extends California's Plastic Market Development Program, which has successfully increased the in-state processing and use of recycled plastic, to 2022..
AB 1294 (Berman, 2017) indefinitely extends requirement for manufacturers and suppliers of plastic products which contain claims of recycled content to maintain documentation that supports those claims.
Plastic Bag Pollution
Passage of California Single-Use Plastic Bag Ban
California voters affirmed their support for a ban on single-use plastic bags by upholding state legislation in voting yes on Prop 67 in the 2016 General Election.
State legislation, SB 270 (2014), was signed into law in 2014 but was immediately challenged by out-of-state plastic bag manufacturers. The law bans single-use plastic bags and puts a minimum charge on reusable, paper and compostable bags.
151 CA cities and counties adopted plastic bag ban ordinances prior to upholding the statewide ban.
Food Packaging Pollution
Passage of Sustainable Food Packaging Law (2018)
SB 1335, signed into law in 2018, requires all state owned facilities in CA to use only recyclable, reusable, or compostable food packaging.
As of December, 2018, 119 CA cities and counties have adopted food packaging ordinances regulating Styrofoam.
Passage of Straws Upon Request law (2018)
AB 1884, signed into law in 2018, requires dine-in restaurants to provide straws only upon request.
California Bottle Bill
Since enacted in 1987, the Bottle Bill- the beverage container deposit system- has proven to be one of the most successful and cost effective recycling and pollution reduction programs in North America.
More than 362 billion beverage containers have been recycled, including more than 10 million tons of aluminum, glass and plastic containers.
Identifying and challenging false environmental claims.
Recent action: $1.5 million settlement resolving a case against Amazon.
Legislation which set standards for labeling products compostable, and prohibits the use of unregulated terms such as biodegradable.
Passage of California’s Environmental Marketing Claims Act (1990)
CA’s original law regulating the use of environmental marketing claims.
Funding for Recycling
Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund grant programs
California Climate Investments AKA Cap and Trade Funding allocates funding to CalRecycle’s grant programs each year, which includes the Recycled Manufacturing grant program.
Fiscal Year (FY) 2014/15= $5 million available grant funding
FY 16/17= $9 million available grant funding
Markets for Recycled Materials
Plastic Market Development Program
AB 3056 (2006) created the Plastic Market Development Payment Program to develop California markets for recycled empty plastic beverage containers.
The program provides financial incentives (up to $150 per ton) to entities that process empty plastic beverage containers from CA, and CA manufacturers using that plastic to produce a new product within the state.