California passes strict new law targeting single-use plastics
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The new bill requires all packaging in the state to be recyclable or compostable by 2032.
California has passed a new single-use plastics packaging bill that requires all packaging to be recyclable or compostable and for packaging makers to pay for the cost of recycling plastic waste.
Under the new Senate Bill (SB) 54 law – which is being called the country’s toughest plastics pollution and recycling plan in the U.S. – 30 per cent of all plastic packaging must be recycled by Jan. 1, 2028, 40 per cent by Jan. 1, 2030, and at least 65 per cent by Jan. 1, 2032. All packaging must be either recyclable or compostable by 2032 and plastic packaging must be reduced by 25 per cent in 10 years.
The bill was signed into law on June 30 by California Governor Gavin Newsom.
Plastics industry members must also contribute US$5 billion over 10 years to combat plastic pollution.
“Our kids deserve a future free of plastic waste and all its dangerous impacts, everything from clogging our oceans to killing animals — contaminating the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat,” Newsom said. “No more. California won’t tolerate plastic waste that’s filling our waterways and making it harder to breathe. We’re holding polluters responsible and cutting plastics at the source.”
The new law is a compromise that led to the withdrawal of the harsher California Plastic Waste Reduction Regulations Initiative, which would have required plastics producers to ensure that single-use plastic packaging and foodware is recyclable, reusable, refillable, or compostable by 2030; reduce single-use plastic packaging and foodware sold in California by at least 25 per cent by 2030; and pay a tax on single-use plastic packaging and foodware, the amount determined by CalRecycle to a maximum of one cent per item.
Two of the U.S.’s biggest plastics industry groups quickly weighed in on the bill with varying degrees of enthusiasm.
“Negotiating SB 54 over the last 18 months has not been an easy process,” said Joshua Baca, vice president of plastics at the American Chemistry Council (ACC) said in a statement. “We appreciate the hard work of Senator Ben Allen and his staff to get us to this resolution. The law is not perfect…[h]owever, SB 54 is a better outcome than the withdrawn anti-plastics ballot initiative. Had that initiative passed it would have cost Californians an estimated $9 billion dollars annually but only (invested) approximately 30 per cent of that to improve recycling in the state.”
“The Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) is disappointed that, in the end, we cannot support today’s signed version of Senate Bill 54,” said Plastics Industry Association president and CEO Matt Seaholm. “The plastics industry remained dedicated to a final compromise bill that we could get behind, supportive of a circular approach to eliminating plastic waste, which we, unfortunately, do not feel this bill accomplishes. However, Senate Bill 54 presents opportunities to continue to work to solve the recycling issues in the state of California in a way that a ballot initiative would not. We will continue to advocate on behalf of our members, their customers, and stress the value that plastics provides to the businesses and citizens of California. Working with policymakers and other stakeholders, I’m hopeful we will ultimately reach environmental solutions for California. The plastics industry is committed to product design, technology, and manufacturing with a focus on sustainable products, designed for recycling and sustainability.”