Assemblywoman Gonzalez Authors Bill to Ensure California’s Plastic Waste Exports are Truly Recyclable

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO – (Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021) – A loophole in state law allows California to deem exported plastic waste as recyclable even as these products are landfilled, burned, or dumped in the country they’re shipped to. Today, California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) introduced legislation Assembly Bill 881 to make sure only truly recyclable plastic waste exports count toward the state’s recycling goals.   

“Single-use plastics do not decompose, and simply dumping this waste onto other countries is not getting it recycled. Instead, it’s causing lasting harm to our planet,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez said. “It’s time to be honest with ourselves about where our trash goes, how it’s being disposed, and whether or not it’s actually recyclable.”

California is one of the country’s top plastic waste exporters, according to US Census export data. Increasingly, evidence shows exported US mixed plastic is inadequately disposed of, through incineration and dumping, rather than recycled. This mismanagement of plastic waste further pollutes the environment and health of communities living nearby.

CalRecycle and local jurisdictions currently do not count the material as being “disposed,” in effect assuming that it’s being recycled despite what actually happens to this waste.

AB 881 would make California’s waste management practices more transparent by reclassifying the export of mixed plastic waste as disposal, while allowing truly recyclable plastic to continue to count toward statewide recycling goals.

"There is no 'away,'" Nick Lapis of the environmental organization Californians Against Waste said. "Shipping worthless unrecyclable plastics overseas does nothing but hurt the receiving communities, increase emissions, reduce the public's faith in recycling, and let brands off the hook for making their products truly recyclable. Ratepayers and the environment both deserve real recycling and waste prevention solutions."

To count as recycled, rather than disposal, AB 881 requires the plastic waste export to be a readily recyclable plastic type or mixture, such as polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Exports deemed recyclable under the bill cannot be prohibited by law in the country of destination.

For questions or to schedule an interview with Assemblywoman Gonzalez, contact Sami Gallegos: