Date: June 30, 2022
Source: News Room
SB 54, a California state bill signed into law Thursday night, will provide comprehensive changes to the producer responsibility of plastics in the California state economy. According to the bill, it will require producers to reduce single use plastics by 25percent by 2032 as well as recycle 65 percent of plastics by that same year. The bill also outlines a program designed to address the outsized impacts of plastic and chemical pollution in disadvantaged communities, with $500 million dedicated to creating projects to address those issues. However, the bill may have just barely outcompeted a similar measure, and not without creating controversy.
Due to the timing of the most recent session of the California legislature, if SB 54 had not cleared the Senate by June 29th (which it did), it would have given an opportunity for other stakeholders to raise a ballot initiative to be voted on by the public in November. The ballot initiative in question, the California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, would require single use plastic for foodware and packaging to be recyclable by 2030 and a 25% reduction of all single use plastic sold in the state by the same year. It would also require manufacturers to pay a 1 cent per item fee on all plastic items that would go toward a MRF infrastructure fund and ban polystyrene altogether. Together, these policies in the ballot initiative represent a much stricter timeline for plastics manufacturers and recycling companies. Thus, many of the stakeholders behind SB 54, including the American Chemistry Council (whose members include many plastics manufacturers) were adamant that SB 54 move swiftly through the halls of Sacramento to avoid a costly and uncertain fight in the Fall.
Now that SB 54 has passed and the threat of the ballot initiative is off the table, critics of the bill, which include the Nature Conservancy and other environmental advocates, must turn their attention to future legislation. Critics argue that SB 54 gives corporations too much leeway and does not do enough to address plastic pollution immediately. As California is a large, coastal state, many of its residents see the impact of oceanic plastic pollution every day.