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Plastic Pollution Bill Signed into Law
Californians are grappling with a growing mountain of plastic waste. This is where the recycling bin waste collected in Topanga ends up. A new bill recently signed into law aims to transfer responsibility for recycling and reducing waste back onto the manufacturers. Photo: Suzanne Guldimann

Plastic Pollution Bill Signed into Law 

California is working to cut plastic pollution and hold the plastics industry accountable for their waste.

On July 1, Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 54, a new law that requires all packaging in the state to be recyclable or compostable by 2032, cutting plastic packaging by 25 percent in 10 years and requiring 65 percent of all single-use plastic packaging to be recycled in the same timeframe.

Additionally, the legislation shifts the plastic pollution burden from consumers to the plastics industry by raising $5 billion from industry members over 10 years to assist efforts to cut plastic pollution and support disadvantaged communities hurt most by the damaging effects of plastic waste.

“Our kids deserve a future free of plastic waste and all its dangerous impacts, everything from clogging our oceans to killing animals – contaminating the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. No more. California won’t tolerate plastic waste that’s filling our waterways and making it harder to breathe. We’re holding polluters responsible and cutting plastics at the source,” said Governor Newsom.

“SB 54 is the most significant overhaul of California’s plastics and packaging recycling policy in history, and it goes further than any other state oncutting plastics production at the source and continues to build a circular economy that is necessary to combat climate change.”

 A global study in 2018 found that only nine percent of plastics actually get recycled. The new law requires all plastic packaging in California to be recycled at the following levels:

  • At least 30 percent on and after January 1, 2028.
  • At least 40 percent on and after January 1, 2030.
  • At least 65 percent on and after January 1, 2032.

The legislation is a result of negotiations between lawmakers and stakeholders in response to a pending initiative on the November ballot, which has since been removed as a result of today’s action.

“In this time of extreme polarization in our nation, California was able to show that we can pass strong environmental legislation with bipartisan support that brought together the environmental and business communities,” said Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), author of the legislation. “I’m so grateful to the ballot measure proponents who helped to force this issue, the many advocates who worked so hard through the negotiations, and the Governor, legislators, and staff who recognized the need for action. With this new law, California continues its tradition of global environmental leadership – tackling a major problem in a way that will grow markets in sustainable innovations, create incentives for investment, and set the stage for partnership with other states and countries on these issues.”

“This is an extraordinary day for California, solidifying our role as a leader in environmental policy and the fight against plastic pollution. SB 54 will fundamentally decrease our dependence on single-use plastics, and the ripple effects of California implementing such bold changes cannot be overstated. So goes California, so goes the nation,” said Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-San Fernando Valley). Newsom stated that the new law builds on the California Climate Commitment, the biggest climate investment in history—a $53.9 billion plan to combat extreme weather and accelerate the transition to clean energy.

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