Proposed Bills Target Single-Use Products

Two California bills (SB 54 and AB 1080) introduce language that works to protect our environment, reduce plastic pollution, and save local governments millions of dollars in the process.

Marine plastics and single-use products are deteriorating the productivity of California’s fisheries, diminishing the natural resources that drive our economy, and threatening our coastal businesses. By reducing marine pollution, millions of California residents would benefit from the money generated from our clean coastal economy. Currently, California cities, towns, and taxpayers are shouldering a whopping $428 million per year in costs to stop litter from becoming pollution that harms the environment, tourism, and other economic activity.

SB 54 and AB1080 are parallel bills, forming the Circular Economy and Pollution Reduction Act. This act is in response to a change in foreign recycling markets, and a dire need to reduce fossil fuel pollution originating from plastic production. 

Throughout the pandemic, more Californians have relied on takeout and delivery to receive food, groceries, and other essentials. And that’s inevitably meant more single-use plastic packaging coming into our homes. So, it’s more important than ever that we fight to ensure that these items are recyclable or compostable. 

Recent studies reveal that of the billions of tons of plastic created over the past decades, only 9% of it has been recycled… only 9! This means that the remaining 91% of plastic created ends up disposed of in landfills or incinerators and littering natural landscapes.

The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet reports that by 2030, plastic, which 99% of the time is manufactured from fossil fuels, is estimated to cause more than 850 million metric tons of greenhouse gases to be expelled into our atmosphere -- adding the same amount of pollution into our skies as 189 coal-powered plants.

While waste pollution is an ever-growing threat worldwide, California has the opportunity to be a leader in combatting waste and single-use products. Senate Bill 54 and Assembly Bill 1080 are critical tools needed to take California’s efforts to the next level by targeting the source of these single-use products and ensuring that a change is made.

What the Bills Do

  • SB 54/AB 1080 would help reduce the amount of single-use plastic packaging sold in California and require that all of the remaining items be composted or recycled.
  • Manufacturers and retailers will be required by California's Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) to design their packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable after 2032.  
  • New incentives and policies to encourage California manufacturers to use recycled materials generated in California will also be created and put in place by CalRecycle. 

During the COVID-19 crisis, we’re focused on rebuilding our future in a more sustainable way. These bills will help do just that by cracking down on the destructive plastic that’s polluting our oceans, threatening our health and climate, and harming and even killing seals, sea otters, sea lions, sea turtles, whales, dolphins, and other marine life. 

And this legislation will also support California’s economic recovery by creating thousands of new green jobs. In fact, it’s estimated that the bills could help generate an additional 110,000 jobs, on top of the existing 125,000 people employed in recycling today. That’s so important right now with our state grappling with record unemployment rates. 

Through the adoption of these bills and the realization of their goals, the unnecessary proliferation of single-use plastic products in California will not only be curbed, but California will be an example of how society can right its wrongs and take steps towards protecting our planet and its inhabitants. 

What You Can Do 

Tell your representatives 

Tell Governor Newsom and your state legislators to help crackdown on plastic pollution by supporting SB 54 and AB 1080. Urge them to protect our environment, health, and economy by sending them a message HERE

Learn more about Single-Use Plastics 

To learn more about single-use plastics, check out NRDC’s Single-Use Plastics 101 Guide for everything you need to know about the most common kind of plastic waste. 

Become a Voice for Change 

Educate your friends and family about the issue. With more people informed, the more change that will happen. Learn more about plastic pollution and other issues on NRDC’s Expert’s Blog Pages.

About the Authors

Dillon Hanson-Ahumada

RAY Marine Conservation Diversity Fellow

Linda Escalante

Southern California Legislative Director

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