Lorena Gonzalez Leads Effort to Combat Plastic Pollution in California

Thursday, February 21, 2019

AB 1080 Sets Waste Reduction Goals that Follow California’s Path on Fighting Climate Change

SACRAMENTO – (Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019) -- Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D- San Diego) and State Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) are proposing to phase out the sale and distribution of single-use plastics by 2030. Assembly Bill 1080/Senate Bill 54 will establish a comprehensive framework to address the pollution and waste crisis, dramatically reducing the amount of single-use waste generated in the California and requiring the remaining packaging and products to be truly recyclable or compostable.

“We have to stop treating our oceans and planet like a dumpster,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez said. “Any fifth grader can tell you that our addiction to single-use plastics is killing our ecosystems. We have technology and innovation to improve how we reduce and recycle the plastic packaging and products in our state. Now, we have to find the political will to do so.”

Specifically, plastic single-use packaging and products sold or distributed in California must be reduced or recycled by 75 percent by 2030. The bill also creates incentives and policies to encourage in-state manufacturing using recycled material generated in California. AB 1080 is co-authored by Assemblymembers Laura Friedman (D - Glendale), Phil Ting (D - San Francisco) and Tasha Boerner Horvath (D – Encinitas). Senators Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) are co-authors of Sen. Allen’s Senate Bill 54.

“We can't keep ignoring the public health and pollution threat posed by mounting plastic waste,” Senator Ben Allen said. “Every day Californians generate tons of non-recyclable, non-compostable waste that clog landfills, rivers, and beaches. The waste is often eventually broken down into toxic chemicals—some of them cancer-causing—that find their way into our food and water systems. The future of California’s quality of life is at stake. Rather than continue to tinker around the edges with one-off bans of individual plastic items, we need a thoughtful, comprehensive solution to address this serious problem head-on.”

In California, less than 15 percent of single-use plastic is recycled, and the cost of recycling exceeds the scrap value of the plastic material. The cost of cleaning up plastic pollution in California alone could exceed $2 billion annually.

“Plastic pollution is drastically impacting our waters and marine life, as well as our food chain and public health.  Eliminating non-reusable, non-recyclable, and non-compostable products and reducing packaging is by far the most effective and least expensive way to protect our health and our environment,” said Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), Chair of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. “AB 1080 is an important step forward that will reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, restore ecosystems, and improve public health in communities across California.”

Additionally, under China’s National Sword policy, China has stopped accepting recyclable waste from foreign entities, eliminating the market for previously recyclable items. Without this market, these materials now pile up in recycling centers or are sent to landfills or illegal incineration facilities in Southeast Asia.

“It’s past time for California to acknowledge that plastics are pollution,” Sen. Skinner said. “The rise in plastics in everything from packaging to single-use products has grown -- not shrunk -- our waste stream and tragically is irreversibly damaging our oceans and wildlife. I’m proud to be a co-author of SB 54. It’s imperative that we curtail the proliferation of plastics in our state.”

Roughly two-thirds of all plastic ever produced has been released into the environment and remains there in some form. As these items fragment into smaller particles, known as microplastics, they increasingly contaminate food and drinking water sources. Microplastics have been found in tap water, bottled water, table salt, fish, shellfish and agricultural soils. Exposure to these plastics and associated toxins has been linked to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption and other serious health problems.

“Single-use plastics create exorbitant amounts of waste and are harmful to our environment,” Sen. Wiener said. “We cannot continue to fill our landfills and our oceans with waste. It is harmful to our ecosystems and our economy. Every year our local governments spend millions to clean up and prevent plastics from polluting our oceans, and it’s only going to get more expensive if we don’t take aggressive steps to reduce the use of single-use plastic. SB 54 will help move us towards a more economically and environmentally sustainable future.”

By 2050 plastic production will account for 20 percent of global fossil fuel consumption, leading the European Union and other countries who are major purchasers of consumer goods to implement comprehensive waste reduction frameworks. 

For questions on AB 1080 or to schedule an interview with Assemblywoman Gonzalez, contact Sami Gallegos (209) 658-7617.