The Californians have made their voices heard and, despite the pandemic order for staying at home, have qualified enough signatures to place an initiative to curb the effects of single-use plastic on people, wildlife and the climate in the November 2022 vote.
For many years I have been personally and professionally committed to the fight against plastic pollution over the entire life cycle from production to the garbage can to the air and for a fairer and more sustainable zero waste system. I campaigned for state and local laws banning plastic bags and expanded polystyrene (commonly known as styrofoam). I have proudly worked with local partners like Teamsters, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) and Pacoima Beautiful for over a decade to create a Zero waste recycling system for the city of Los Angeles. In 2013, I worked my heart out to last FROM 521 (and falling short in the first house) – a bill on expanded producer responsibility from plastic pollution that targeted the top 10 plastic products that pollute the ocean. Since that hard lesson, I have supported significant efforts to reduce pollution from single-use plastic, one problematic source after another, such as straws on demand, the ban on single-use plastic bags, and a broader method such as the latest “Circular Economy ”package is currently moving through the California legislature. Just before the pandemic, along with state lawmakers and industry leaders, I took an in-depth look at the garbage tour at our renowned recycling systems in Vancouver and Seattle.
Now, what I am most excited about is a groundbreaking, voter-led initiative that has just taken place to curb the effects of single-use plastic pollution on people, wildlife and the climate certified by the California Secretary of State for the November 2022 vote. That California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act is an opportunity to put pressure on the plastics industry to curb the harmful environmental and health impacts of their single-use products, and to rebuild and support California’s broken recycling system. That’s why I’m proud Advocates this election, along with Michael Sangiacomo, former CEO of Recology, and Caryl Hart, my colleague for the California Coast Commissioner.
The California Voting Action on Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction would direct the state to enact the most comprehensive in the country by making all single-use plastic packaging and food recyclable, reusable, refillable, or compostable by 2030, and requiring the total amount of single-use sold in California – Plastic packaging and groceries will be reduced by no less than 25% by 2030 and a new fee will be charged to single-use plastic product manufacturers for recycling, waste reduction, composting and garbage cleaning. At least 25 percent of the new income must be spent in disadvantaged communities.
We all have seen the dire and deadly effects of plastic pollution on wildlife, marine mammals, turtles and birds. And a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the World Economic Forum predicts that more plastic than fish could be found in the oceans by 2050. We need to reduce the amount of harmful plastic that pollutes our communities and enters our streams, rivers and oceans. as well as the ever-increasing amount of plastic filling our landfills.
In addition, people are also badly affected by plastic pollution. In early 2021 there was a report entitled Neglected: Impact of plastic pollution on environmental justice Issued by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and AZUL, a leading U.S. environmental justice and marine conservation organization, have focused on the enormous human social costs and disproportionate life cycle impact of plastic pollution on the most vulnerable people in the world . Plastic pollution in the oceans threatens the food chain and livelihoods of millions of people who depend on it for a living. Waste and processing facilities – such as recyclers, landfills, incinerators, and “chemical recycling” facilities – focus on low-income and marginalized communities; as does the petrochemical industry, which makes plastics; and with it the dirty air, water, and living things that pollute these industries. The waste industry is also one of the most dangerous for workers, even in a rich country like the US, and the dangers of the current “out of sight, out of mind” waste system are immigrants, women and people most exposed to paint. Workers and the most vulnerable need to be protected from the harms of our reliance on single-use plastic.
We are in the midst of a public health and economic crisis due to COVID-19. Adequate accommodations May be needed to ensure that food workers and the public at large are protected from the spread of the coronavirus until we have the outbreak under control. But the plastics industry is taking advantage of this crisis and spreading misleading information to undo all the advances we’ve made in California and across the country. The California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Initiative can help our state recover by creating jobs in recycling, composting, sustainable agriculture, and habitat restoration.
Today more than ever we need a plastic-free California. The USA only recycles 9% of its plastic waste, and plastic packaging (most of which are disposable) accounts for 40% of the total production of plastic products. In addition, the production of most single-use plastics is harmful to the climate and an ever-growing threat, as 99% of plastics are derived from fossil fuels and their refining is one of the most GHG-intensive industries in manufacturing – and one of the fastest growing. In 2013, NRDC released a shocking report in which we found that California communities, regardless of size or distance from the ocean, collectively spend nearly $ 500 million a year cleaning up litter and preventing it from entering waterways.
California must rebuild its waste and recycling systems in the face of closed overseas markets and the increase in plastic packaging and waste. We need to move beyond single-use plastics and our dependence on the petrochemical complex that is driving our species (and most others) to extinction. Reducing plastic production and promoting recycling will help protect wildlife and our communities from the harmful effects of plastic waste. It also helps maintain California’s momentum in the climate struggle and as a global environmental leader.
If the California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction voting initiative is approved by a majority of voters, we will have a good lead.
Join NRDC and vote for the CA Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act.