California Certifies Groundbreaking Citizen Initiative Aimed at Reducing Plastics Waste
November 2022 ballot measure aims to address the environmental & health impacts of single-use plastics
SACRAMENTO – Conservation groups joined forces today in applaud the certification of the California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act for the November 2022 statewide ballot. Nearly 900,000 California voters signed petitions to put the measure on the ballot that will address the plastic pollution crisis threatening public health, the environment, marine ecosystems, rivers, lakes, and beaches.
Scientific analyses show that under the current trajectory, the amount of plastic waste entering the rivers, lakes and the ocean will more than triple by 2050 without intervention. If our current dependence on plastic continues, oil consumption for plastics production will account for 20% of all oil use by 2050.
California’s leaders stepped up to ban single-use plastic bags in 2014 and voters upheld the measure at the ballot box in 2016. Since then, several state legislative efforts have failed to meet the urgency of the moment, with critical plastic waste reduction policy bills failing passage. Now, voters will once again have the opportunity to respond to this crisis.
A 2020 survey of likely California voters found over 6 in 10 voters support a ballot measure to reduce single-use plastics, reduce the impacts of plastic pollution on our water, land, and air, and build more recycling and composting facilities. The proposed ballot initiative is the most effective mechanism to minimize plastic pollution, disincentivizing the responsible industry with the intent of achieving source reduction.
“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,” said Victoria Rome, California government affairs director, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “This ballot measure will reduce the amount of plastic trash that harms wildlife and communities. The measure will also protect our wallets from these staggering costs.”
“This initiative presents an important economic opportunity for California. By leveraging our state’s innovative spirit, we can create a robust in-state recycling industry that will drive job creation and investment in our economy,” said Andy Wunder, western states advocate for the national, nonpartisan business group E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs). “Importantly, plastic pollution is an economic liability for important sectors of California’s economy, including our robust ocean and tourism economy. This initiative will not only drive economic development, but it will tackle the business risk presented by plastic waste head on.”
“Plastics flooding into our oceans are a clear threat to marine life like whales, sea turtles, and fish and a burden on coastal communities forced to clean up the plastic waste washing up on our beaches every day,” said Dr. Geoff Shester, California Campaign Director and Senior Scientist for Oceana. “With this initiative we here in California can play a key role in tackling the plastics crisis by reducing the amount of single-use plastic allowed to be sold in our state.”
“The California Plastic Waste Reduction Regulations Initiative sets the stage for a desperately needed paradigm shift in how we produce, consume and dispose of trillions of plastic items every single day,” said Nicholas Mallos, Senior Director, Trash Free Seas®, Ocean Conservancy. “Ocean Conservancy research shows that reducing single-use plastics, increasing collection and recycling rates, and enacting recycled content standards, are all critical to stemming the flow of plastic into our ocean. With this Initiative, Californians have the opportunity to implement all of these measures and more.”
“We see plastic pollution in California and beyond as a critical environmental issue”, said Jay Ziegler, Executive Director of External Affairs and Policy for the California chapter of The Nature Conservancy. “This initiative is a landmark opportunity to ensure producer responsibility, invest in critical infrastructure, and ensure that both nature and people can have a future that is not threatened by plastic.”
The California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act would require CalRecycle to adopt key provisions for producers related to the reduction of single-use plastic packaging and foodware. In addition to the initiative providing an opportunity for enhanced producer responsibility, the California Plastic Pollution Reduction Fee would be imposed on single-use plastic packaging and foodware. CalRecycle would determine the fee amount with a maximum amount of 1 cent per item of packaging or foodware.
After deducting costs of collection, administration and enforcement of the fee, the funds will be distributed as follows:
• 20% of funds will be transferred for use by local governments to upgrade waste and recycling systems.
• 50% of funds will be used to support statewide and local government efforts in waste reduction, recycling, and composting efforts; and to create a supply of recycled materials to support manufacturing of products made from recycled materials.
• 30% of funds will be used for environmental mitigation, to mitigate the impacts of plastic pollution, and to protect and restore wildlife and the environment including coastal and ocean ecosystems, streams, rivers, and beaches.
The initiative enjoys the support of dozens of environmental, environmental health, progressive agriculture, business organizations and leading state legislators like Senate Environmental Quality committee chair Ben Allen and Senate Natural Resources and Water committee chair Henry Stern and Assembly Budget Subcommittee chair Richard Bloom, Assembly Speaker pro Tempore Kevin Mullin, and Assembly Natural Resources committee chair Luz Rivas.
Today, plastics are choking stormwater drains, water treatment and sewer systems, and are increasingly abundant in the form of microplastics and microfibers. Plastic trash is a blight on our communities. The growing plastic waste stream is threatening freshwater, beach, and ocean ecosystems. Plastics endanger human health when they are produced, through the use of toxic chemicals and fossil fuels, and through air and water emissions that disproportionately harm lower-income communities and communities of color. Throughout their long lifespan, plastics expose us to what some scientists call “a harmful cocktail of endocrine-disrupting chemicals.” Plastic pollution also disrupts our ability to achieve key conservation outcomes, threatening freshwater and ocean biodiversity.
NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.