Lorena Gonzalez Bill to Ensure California’s Plastic Waste Exports are Truly Recyclable Passed by First Legislative Committee

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO – (Wednesday, Mar. 24, 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, Assembly Natural Resources Committee unanimously passed with bipartisan support Assembly Bill 881 by State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) to make sure only truly recyclable plastic waste exports count toward the state’s recycling goals.   

“To urgently tackle this plastic pollution crisis, we need to be honest with ourselves. Dumping our plastic waste onto other countries is not actually getting it recycled, it’s only causing more harm to our planet,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez said. “AB 881 will help California make real progress towards our recycling goals by creating transparency around what is happening with our state’s exported plastic waste.”

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.

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 Shubhangi Domokos: shubhangi.domokos@asm.ca.gov