California Enacts Boldest Plastic Reduction Policy in the Nation
Oceana Applauds Gov. Newsom, State Legislature for Greatly Reducing Pollution From Single-Use Plastics
Press Release Date: June 30, 2022
Location: Sacramento, Calif.
Today, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 54, the strongest plastic source reduction policy in the nation, following bipartisan votes by the state legislature. Known as the Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act, SB 54 marks a significant step in reducing the country’s reliance on single-use plastic and protecting our oceans, communities, and climate.
While several states have phased out specific plastic items like bags, SB 54 is the first state law to mandate source reduction of all single-use plastic packaging and foodware, from detergent bottles and bubble wrap to cups and utensils. The law requires producers to slash their single-use plastic packaging and foodware by at least 25% by 2032 and implement the first reuse and refill mandates in the nation. SB 54 also requires producers to pay $5 billion over 10 years in environmental mitigation funds, the majority of which directly addresses plastic’s harms to disadvantaged, low-income, and rural communities who have been disproportionately impacted by plastic production, use, and pollution. While there will continue to be a need to reduce beyond the 25% mandated in this new law, and to invest in tools such as regenerative agriculture to help reduce the worst impacts of pollution and climate change, this law represents a powerful step that other states, and even nations, can use to build their plastics reduction programs.
“It’s time for the plastics industry to stop using a material that lasts forever to make products that are used once and thrown away. California — which boasts the fifth-largest economy in the world — has boldly raised the bar for reducing single-use plastic,” said Christy Leavitt, Oceana’s plastics campaign director. “Oceana commends the state legislature and the governor for realizing the urgency of the plastic pollution crisis and taking strong action to protect California’s coast and communities. California’s effort to aggressively tackle plastic pollution at the source and require companies to shift from throwaway plastic to reusable and refillable alternatives sends a strong signal to the nation, and the world.”
Single-use plastic foodware and food packaging products are consistently among six of the top 10 types of items most commonly picked up during annual beach cleanups across California. Voters are concerned and want change. A recent Oceana poll found that, among registered California voters, 91% are concerned about plastic pollution and its impact on the environment, and 86% support local and state policies that reduce single-use plastic.
“California answered the call of the people by committing to reduce single-use plastic packaging and foodware in the state by at least 25% over the next decade,” said Tara Brock, Oceana’s Pacific counsel. “Today’s victory would not be possible without the tireless work of advocates pushing to address the impacts plastics have had and continue to have in their local communities and in our environment. Oceana applauds Assemblywoman Luz Rivas and Sen. Ben Allen for their fearless leadership in the effort to stem the tide of this harmful and persistent pollutant. We look forward to working with CalRecycle and our partners across the state to ensure implementation of this landmark policy is a success.”
California voters were expected to have the opportunity to vote for the California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act in November. This ballot initiative would have also reduced single-use plastic packaging and foodware statewide. Given the passage of SB 54, the initiative petitioners withdrew the ballot measure today.
Scientists estimate that 33 billion pounds of plastic wash into the ocean every year. That equates to about two garbage trucks’ worth of plastic entering the ocean every minute. Plastic has been found in every corner of the world and has turned up in drinking water, beer, salt, honey and more. Fenceline communities are disproportionately impacted by plastic production and disposal facilities polluting their air, water, and soil. Plastic is also one of the greatest contributors to climate change. In fact, if plastic were a country, it would be the fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.
Recycling alone will not solve this problem — less than 6% of the U.S. plastic waste is recycled, and companies continue to push new plastic products onto the market. With plastic production growing at a rapid rate, increased amounts of plastic can be expected to flood our blue planet with devastating consequences.
For more information about Oceana’s campaign to end the plastics problem, please visit www.oceana.org/plastics.
Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one-third of the world’s wild fish catch. With more than 225 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution, and the killing of threatened species like turtles and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that 1 billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal, every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. Visit www.usa.oceana.org to learn more.