Effort to Reduce Plastic Waste

SACRAMENTO—In recycling news we recently learned that a new initiative will be on the California ballot in November of this year.  Aimed at reducing or eliminating the main sources of plastic waste the California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act is officially on the ballot.

The ballot measure is supposed to solve California’s plastic waste dilemma throughout the chain of production to disposal. The measure also addresses recycling efforts and focuses on habitat cleanup and restoration. The measure, if approved by voters, would require a $0.01 fee be imposed on plastic package and foodware manufacturers. The sweeping initiative hopes to reduce pollution in neighborhoods and animal habitats while also allotting money to clean up those same places that have been affected by pollution.

Non-recycled plastic in California ocean
Non-recycled plastic in California ocean

The fee (or as the initiative’s authors refer to it, investment) will be comprised of:

-Waste reduction: Money will be allocated to waste reduction efforts attempting to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills. This will be accomplished by changes in landfill or incinerator design, increased composting measures and other means.

-Changes to recycling: The cost of disposing of non-recyclable packaging has been borne by residential ratepayers. This would be shifted to the companies that produce these products. Proponents of the measure say this would make California have a modern system of recycling.

-Community/habitat cleanup: The measure would go toward cleaning up polluted neighborhoods as well as restoring habitats in places like beaches, parks and rivers.

-Reintroduction of recycled materials to the economy of California: The measure aims to increase the state’s manufacturers access to recycled materials. Proponents say this would create many new jobs as well as creating an increasingly circular economy.

Recycling efforts in California may get a boost

According to an article in Californians Against Waste (CAW, cawrecycles.org) a vast majority of Californians are concerned about plastic waste and its negative effects on the environment. The article states that almost a million signatures were collected the petition to place this measure on the November ballot. They also quote the 2020 survey conducted by the Public Policy Institute which says 94% of residents of the state think plastic waste (especially in the ocean) is a problem. Another poll quoted in the article states that 70% of Californians surveyed support this ballot measure.

Plastic is not only unsightly in our oceans, it can pose health hazards—and not just to wildlife. The CAW article describes how miniscule particles of plastic—known as microplastics—are now found in many of our state’s waters especially in northern California. According to the state these microplastics must be monitored since, if they get into our drinking water supply, they may contain chemicals that pose health hazards to humans. We are not the only ones that may be affected, animals can ingest these microplastics and die as a result. Those chemicals eaten my animals may also work their way up the food chain, once again affecting us humans if we eat products made from some of these contaminated animals.

One selling point regarding this initiative is that it should save money in the long run. The California Coastal Commission study of 2012 found that coastal communities in the state spent over $500,000,000 each year in taxpayer money to clean up litter. This is over and above what we as residential ratepayers pay out for dealing with non-recyclable items. Other money-saving benefits may include the reduction in drilling for fossil fuels which are necessary to create new plastic items. By requiring use of recycled materials in production of products the amount of drilling and extraction could be reduced. Finally, by utilizing more recycled materials we reduce the amount of items that go into the state’s landfills or incinerators or tossed onto the roadside. In each case it’s one more opportunity for plastic waste to leach into the ground or waterways.

The measure is set to appear on the statewide California ballot for the November 8, 2022 general election.

Los Angeles recycling center: TM Scrap Metals