California Could Ban Single-Use Plastics by 2030
When it comes to recycling, there is so much misinformation out there, that many Americans don’t know what exactly is recyclable. Single-use plastics are commonly used throughout the country, and most don’t think twice about tossing them into a recycling bin. Unfortunately, these items cannot be recycled, causing mountains of non-degradable plastic to pile up in landfills.
To ease the recycling problem, the US struck a deal with China to buy American recyclables years ago. In return, China was able to make a profit selling it as post-consumer materials. At the height of this deal, the US was sending nearly 4,000 shipping containers full of recyclable waste to China every day. But with unsatisfactory recycling habits causing the material to become so badly contaminated with waste and other materials, China cut out of the deal, leaving the US with a serious plastic problem.
California is perhaps one of the hardest hit from China’s decrease in purchasing our recyclables, as the state was previously sending more than 60% of its recyclable material to China. With this shift in policy, much of the single-use plastic packaging in California is ending up in the incinerator, or into landfills across the state, and it is beginning to near its total capacity.
California Assembly Bill 1080 was one of several other bills that aimed to completely transform how California deals with its recycling crisis. The bills would ban the production or sale of any non-recyclable single-use packaging containers in the state by 2030. 75% of the states single-use plastic would also be required to be recycled by the state so no more will end up in its landfills. Unfortunately, they passed through the state legislature without coming to a vote.
However, there is still a push towards a future where single-use plastic is banned in the state. “Californians are frustrated and concerned about the environmental, public health and financial consequences of single-use plastic waste,” said Geoff Shester, California campaign director and senior scientist at Oceana. “Inaction is not an option. We will simply have to double down our efforts in getting strong legislation passed next year.”
Several recycling bills have made their way to a vote in the state legislature that could be promising in limiting the amount of plastic we introduce into the market. AB 54 will provide a $5 million fund for a pilot mobile recycling project overseen by CalRecycle. AB 792 is a more direct approach to limiting single-use plastics, with amendments to begin phased-in minimums, starting with a 10% requirement in 2021, and capping to 50% by 2030. Both bills await the signature of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has until Oct. 13 to sign or veto them.