Setting the stage for a major environmental fight over the growing pollution issue, a coalition of environmental groups has qualified a statewide ballot measure that requires plastic packaging sold in California to be recyclable or recyclable. Will be
the measure, which will appear in California’s November 2022 ballot, also requires companies that make plastic packaging — everything from fast-food containers to packaging that contain toys and other products inside a cardboard box — by 2030. to reduce the amount they sell in California by 25%.
In practice, this could mean that companies have to set up “withdraw” programs or fund recycling efforts. They will almost certainly have to shun some type of hard-to-recycle plastic and use less packaging in general.
“Every Californian understands that we are drowning in plastic,” said Jay Ziegler, director of foreign affairs for the California chapter of the Nature Conservancy. “Plastic is choking the environment from Lake Tahoe to our beaches on the coast. This initiative is to stem the tide of plastic pollution.”
Although climate change has received the most attention over the past decade, plastic waste has become one of the world’s major environmental problems.
Half of the plastic that has ever existed on Earth has been made in the last 13 years. Only 9% of the plastic sold in the United States each year is recycled. Up to 13 million metric tons of it end up in the world’s oceans each year – the equivalent of a garbage truck dumped into the ocean every minute – where it kills the fish, birds, sea turtles, whales and dolphins that eat it or get entangled in it. At the current rate, a recent study finds that by 2050 there will be more plastic by weight in the ocean than fish, most of which is broken down into trillions of tiny pieces of toxic confetti.
If approved by a majority of voters, the measure would ban Styrofoam and other polystyrene food packaging, such as clam-shell boxes for take-out food, in stores, supermarkets and restaurants. Some cities already have the ban, but the ballot will make it statewide. In addition, it would impose a 1 percent fee on each item of plastic packaging paid by packaging manufacturers that raise $1 billion or more annually to fund recycling efforts, beach clean-up and other pollution programs across the state. could.
The plastics industry has opposed the move. Tim Schestek, a spokesman for the American Chemistry Council, a trade association that includes large companies such as Dow, DuPont, 3M and ExxonMobil Chemical, called the measure “a huge taxpayer-billions of dollars to fund a variety of special interest- funded giveaway”. pet projects. “
He said this is a threat to small businesses like restaurants and the plastics industry is committed to reducing plastic waste.
“Plastics are indispensable to the modern way of life,” he said, “and are critical to achieving sustainability goals, such as making lighter-weight vehicles, buildings and homes more energy-efficient, and reducing food waste – these All help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Ziegler said the measure would only affect plastic packaging. It also doesn’t affect beverage containers, which are already regulated by state bottle recycling laws.
The measure qualified for the ballot late Monday after supporters signed more than 900,000, exceeding the required 623,212.
Ballot demonstrations came after bills aimed at reducing plastic pollution were shot down in the state legislature in recent years over protests from industry groups.
“The problem is only going to get worse,” said Amy David, vice president of ocean conservation policy strategy at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is backing the measure. “The industry is producing more plastic packaging than ever before, and recycling is not making a dent. California needs to step up in a big way.”
Last September, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a first-in-the-nation law requiring plastic beverage containers to contain increasing amounts of recycled content. Under this, companies that produce everything from soda to bottled water will have to use 15% recycled plastic in their bottles by 2022, 25% by 2025 and 50% by 2030.
But efforts to require plastics manufacturers to recall their products have failed. The ballot goes far beyond recent bills with a 1 percent tax on plastic packaging materials. Such a tax would have required a two-thirds vote to pass in the legislature. But under state law, it can be passed by a majority vote as part of a statewide ballot measure.
In 2016, California voters who banned single-use plastic grocery bags approved Proposition 67 by 53–47%. The plastics industry spent more than $6 million in that campaign, more than twice what environmental groups spent.
Mark Murray, executive director of California Against Waste, the state’s leading recycling advocacy organization, said the problem now is that many types of plastics, especially the types with the circular arrow logo, are numbered 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It is not recyclable because the demand for it is very low and there are few markets for it. Residents dutifully put it in their blue recycling bins, sorted it out at city collection centers but then thrown away.
“It leads to a very expensive trip to the landfill,” he said.
If the ballot passes, and manufacturers are responsible for getting rid of it, they will stop using much of it, he predicted.
“They have to take responsibility,” he said. “Right now they are not responsible. They are benefiting from pollution with zero accountability.”