California has to Stop Thinking Small in the Fight Against Plastic Trash

The Los Angeles Times

The Times Editorial Board

There’s no doubt that the tiny plastic shampoo and lotion bottles provided to hotel customers are extravagantly wasteful. At most, they contain enough product for a couple of uses before they are tossed. But they represent just a small drop in the ocean-sized environmental disaster of single-use plastic items that are piling up in landfills and clogging the seas.

Yet these hotel toiletry bottles are the sole focus of AB 1162, a bill that passed through the California Assembly last month and is headed for consideration in the state Senate. The measure would prohibit all hotels and other lodging establishments in the state from handing out such bottles unless requested, starting in 2024.

Lawmakers should not waste their energy on such a trivial law. Besides, the hotel industry is already moving away from these personal-size toiletries. Big chains, such as Marriott and Holiday Inn Express, are switching to larger, refillable containers.

Banning plastic grocery bags and beverage straws was the right way at the time to focus the public’s attention on the problem of single-use plastic products and containers. But now that people understand that whales are choking to death on plastic bags and other plastic products, and that every piece of plastic ever made still exists in some form, lawmakers can and should turn their focus to bigger, more disruptive actions.

Happily, there is legislation also progressing through the Legislature that takes a more comprehensive approach. SB 54 by Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) and its Assembly companion bill, AB 1080 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), would establish the groundbreaking California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, a law with a complicated name but a simple goal: slashing all single-use plastic waste in California by 75% over the next decade.

If we want to stop covering the Earth in discarded plastic trash before the end of the century, we’re going to have to stop addressing the problem with minuscule, penny-ante policies.

In its current form, the proposed law requires manufacturers of any kind of disposable plastic — mainly product packaging — to achieve a 20% recycling rate by 2024, gradually increasing to a 75% rate by 2030. This sounds like a low initial bar, but the reality is that many plastics are virtually unrecyclable, and beyond that, the market for recyclables has contracted dramatically. So the practical effect of the law is that many manufacturers would have to invest significantly in equipment, facilities and programs to increase their recycling rate — or their product couldn’t be sold in California.

Both bills are working their way through their respective houses, despite the not-inconsiderable pushback from plastics manufacturers and business trade groups. Some of the issues that have been raised are valid and should be addressed, such as the ambiguity of some key terms (just what does “single-use” mean?) and whether food safety might be compromised. But the legislation should not be diluted with so many concessions that it becomes toothless. The reality is that the problem of plastic trash is too big to solve without serious disruption to how products are made, packaged and discarded.

How big? Roughly estimated, 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic have been produced in the last 70 years, and less than 10% of it has been recycled. Most of it has ended up in landfills or in the ocean, where it is killing sea animals that mistake the plastic bits for food. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade like organic material. It breaks down into microscopic particles that have invaded every corner of the planet, including our food and drinking water.

These two proposed laws create a stark choice for California — and for the U.S., which has been shamefully slow to address the single-use plastic problem. Either the state can continue to think small by banning the annoying plastic product of the moment, or it can step up to be the desperately needed model for plastic trash reduction the nation needs.

Access the Full Story Here.

California Must Stop Dumping Plastic Waste Abroad

San Jose Mercury News

Nick Lapis

Californians do their part to reduce trash and plastic pollution, dutifully sorting household waste into what they think is recyclable and what is not — and believing that when those blue bins are carted away, the contents are recycled responsibly.

But many Californians don’t realize that we export a mountain of our plastic waste to other countries.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, California accounts for around 30 percent of total U.S. plastic waste exports — 503,000 tons in 2017. Until recently, much of this went to China.

But in 2017, China began heavily restricting plastic scrap imports to cut down on the pollution and health problems from trash created elsewhere. In 12 months, China’s imports dropped 99 percent.

A report from the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) — the result of a two-year investigation — and a data analysis by Greenpeace reveals how plastic scrap exports have been diverted throughout Asia. Countries including Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia are now chaotically receiving massive quantities of plastic waste from Western nations, more than local oversight and enforcement agencies can regulate.

Because so many types of plastic exist — from valuable to worthless, clean to contaminated, and recyclable to non-recyclable — importing countries are burdened with picking the few usable bits and disposing of the rest, often in unsafe and environmentally damaging ways. In Malaysia, investigators found a dump the size of six football fields with trash piled two stories high.

Illegal incineration of unrecyclable plastic pollutes these countries’ air and groundwater and releases chemicals linked to immune and reproductive system complications and cancers. Villagers living near illegal, unregulated recycling plants that have popped up since China’s ban complain of rashes and difficulty breathing.

Some facilities contaminate water near aquaculture farms that are raising seafood sold in the United States, while tofu factories in Indonesia have been documented burning plastic waste as fuel.

Clearly, exporting California waste is exporting our pollution problem to other families and communities.

Consumers contribute to this problem by purchasing non-recyclable products, but manufacturers must share responsibility for the solution by making truly recyclable products and packaging, and by ensuring that recycling actually occurs. Companies should phase out plastics that aren’t recyclable and redesign packaging to reduce use in the first place.

California’s policymakers are taking this problem seriously. Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, has proposed the California Recycling Market Development Act, AB 1583, to reinvest in our state’s recycling infrastructure so we don’t export our waste problems to other countries.

The Legislature is also “Reducing, Reusing and Recycling” through two bills, SB 54 and AB 1080, to require reductions in single-use packaging and products sold or distributed in California by 75 percent by 2030. After 2030, these items must be effectively reusable, recyclable or compostable. The bills also encourage in-state manufacturing of products using recycled material generated in California.

Additionally, the Legislature is considering bills to require recycled content in beverage containers (AB 792) and to reopen shuttered recycling centers (SB 724).

Once approved and implemented, these measures would significantly reduce the $420 million that local governments, ratepayers and ultimately taxpayers spend each year to clean up litter in our communities and green spaces, and they would provide a waste-reduction model for other states and countries.

As the fifth largest economy in the world, California has a responsibility to help solve the plastic pollution crisis. The state must take dramatic steps now to cut down on unnecessary single-use packaging and products and improve recycling of the rest.

No community — whether in California or Southeast Asia — is disposable.

Access the full story here.

Is recycling still worth it?

Sacramento News & Review

Foon Rhee

If you believe the doom-and-gloom stories, recycling is a bust as a way to help save the planet. It’s pretty pointless to sort out bottles, paper and plastic and roll your blue bin to the curb.

Don’t believe the “end of recycling” hype, says Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste. “It’s completely exaggerated,” he says.

Yet, “the ‘state of crisis’ perception is good for us from an advocacy standpoint,” he adds.

His group is behind much of California’s progress in recycling, and it has plenty of work ahead: As we get ready to celebrate Earth Day on April 22, the numbers are headed in the wrong direction.

In 2011, a new state law set an ambitious goal: By 2020 to recycle at least 75 percent of the 77.2 million tons of waste Californians produce each year.

But in 2017, the recycling rate was 42 percent, continuing a decline from a peak of 50 percent in 2014, according to CalRecycle.

Murray says that while commercial and industrial recycling is successful, the problem is residential recycling, especially of “mixed plastics,” including plastic-coated milk cartons and take-out food containers.

Part of the trouble is that despite our best intentions, we’re not that great at recycling. About one-fourth of what is put in bins is contaminated and has to be sorted out. The city of Sacramento is trying to educate residents on what they should not try to recycle—a long list that includes paper with plastic coating and plastic bags.

It’s more important for consumers not to buy these non-recyclable products in the first place, Murray says. That would cut the demand, then the priority is to reduce the supply by limiting production of non-recyclable materials.

We’ve been lulled into thinking that all sorts of products can be recycled because they were shipped to Asia, where cheap labor sorted it, Murray says. But last year, China started rejecting mixed paper and most plastics. California’s exports of recyclables have dropped by 11 percent in the last three years, which is also making recycling more expensive for local governments.

CalRecycle says there needs to be a new approach to make recycling work. Murray agrees, and says “plastic is at the root of it,” which is why it’s his group’s focus.

In California, less than 15 percent of single-use plastic is recycled, even though voters agreed in November 2016 to ban single-use plastic bags at most stores and legislators voted last year to restrict plastic straws at restaurants.

So Californians Against Waste is supporting far more sweeping legislation: Senate Bill 54/Assembly Bill 1080, which would require businesses to reduce or recycle at least 75 percent of single-use plastic packaging or products by 2030.

On March 27, the European Parliament set the global benchmark by banning 10 single-use plastics—including plates, straws, forks and food containers—by 2021.

It’s far from the end of recycling in California, but it sure wouldn’t hurt to get a similar boost. If you care about this issue, it’s time to give your legislator a shout.

Access the full story here.

Recycling crisis: China rejects most of our plastic. Now what?

Bay Area News Group

Lisa Krieger

With probes and clipboards, Chinese inspectors tour Bay Area recycling centers at least once a month, testing our trash to see if it meets their new high standards.

Until recently, almost all of our vast piles of plastic and paper refuse were sold and shipped overseas, promising a new life for much of what we so blithely tossed away.

Now much is rejected as wet, dirty or worthless – a reversal that has turned our once-reliable recycling world upside down, as prices plummet and the cost of cleanup soars.

As a result, California’s once-proud recycling reputation is in a tailspin. About 35 million tons of garbage were dumped into landfills in 2016, up from 29.3 million tons in 2012. Recycling rates have fallen from 50 percent to 44 percent. The state’s goal of reaching a 75 percent recycling rate by next year is slipping further away.

With a shrunken market for our waste, fewer materials can be reclaimed – forcing us to re-think familiar conveniences. Certain plastics and papers are the biggest problem, especially if soiled by food or fluids. Careless customers may discover a note on their bin or no pickup at all.

That stuff inside your blue bin used to be worth about 65 cents. Now it costs 47 cents to haul it away and find someone who wants it.

“We’ve been lulled into thinking that we don’t have to pay for what’s put in the recycling cart,” said Mark Bowers of Sunnyvale’s Materials Recovery and Transfer Station, which sorts and processes much of the Peninsula’s solid waste. “But we do.”

Our largest customer, China, was overwhelmed by the West’s waste. So it cut off imports of all but our cleanest and highest-grade materials — allowing only certain plastics, corrugated cardboard, newsprint and a few other categories. It has imposed a 99.5 percent purity standard that most exporters find all but impossible to meet.

Our waste managers are searching for new markets and improving their processing technologies. But there’s still too much stuff.  We’re stuck in a growing sea of refuse, driven by growth in the online economy and the increased complexity of packaging. All too often we’re “aspirational recyclers,” tossing items that don’t really belong into the blue bin with the vague hope that they will be repurposed.

All those plastic “clamshell” containers? Shrink-wrapped packages? Used sandwich bags? Greasy pizza boxes? Amazon’s plastic envelopes? Juice pouches? Freezer-proof cartons? Sticky peanut butter jars?

No one wants them. They’re all ours now.

Losing China

Our local waste managers don’t actually turn our refuse back into raw materials. Instead, they haul it to their cacophonous processing plants, where valuables are sorted out with speed and precision by workers with masks, gloves and earplugs. Then they sell the baled goods to brokers, who sell it to “reclaimers,” who crush, melt, grind and reshape them into new materials.

In the early days of recycling, most of the reclaimers were domestic, with plants in San Leandro, Antioch, Oakland, Santa Clara and other regions of the U.S.

“Recycling was a radical notion. People said we were a bunch of hippies digging through trash, who would never change anything,” said Martin Borque of Berkeley’s Ecology Center, one of the oldest recycling operations in the nation. U.S. reclaimers wanted things clean and well-sorted, he recalled.

“There were no Asian markets,” he said.

But China’s booming economy was hungry for raw materials. And it was lucrative to sell and ship our plastic and paper 10,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean on just-emptied empty container ships.

“They were buying up everything they could get their hands on and were willing to accept pretty contaminated materials — and paid high prices,” said Borque.

But this hid a dirty secret:  A lot of what we sent overseas was trash. Only about 25 percent of what went to China in “mixed bales” of low-quality plastic was actually recyclable, said Mark Murray, director of the Sacramento-based Californians Against Waste.

Faced with increasing material and contamination, Chinese operators pulled out the good stuff — and burned, buried or dumped into rivers whatever couldn’t be sold, he said.

“We weren’t recycling as much as we thought we were,” said Murray. “There was an assumption that because China was paying for these materials, they had a magic way to recycle all of it. They were never recycling all of it. They were recycling some of it.”

China’s new policy has virtually halted our convenient conveyor belt.

“China is like the girl who broke up with you because you didn’t clean up in the kitchen and threw your clothes on the floor,” said Bowers. “She’s done with you.”

Seeking new markets

Only recyclables that pass China’s very stringent pre-shipment physical inspection – such as plastics with less than 0.5 percent contamination with stuck food or other impurities — are certified for shipment. The nation has banned 40 different types of solid waste, including motors and wires. Next year, they’ll ban another 16 types, including some forms of stainless steel. It only accepts No. 1 and 2 plastics, such as water, milk and detergent containers. It rejects plastics No. 3 through 7, from ketchup bottles and packing peanuts to newspaper bags.

Inspectors — representing China and other destinations — arrive at Bay Area facilities to examine each bale, sometimes asking that one be broken up so they can peer inside. With probes, they measure moisture content. Sometimes they watch the bales get loaded onto trucks.

“If a cart’s lid is left open and it rains, or if a jug of soda has liquid at the bottom… that moisture can contaminate a whole load,” causing it to go to landfill, said Emily Hanson of GreenWaste Recovery in San Jose. “Your neighbor’s recycling can contaminate your recycling.”

Many recyclers no longer want to risk shipping to China. If a shipment is rejected when it arrives, they may have to quickly find another overseas buyer or ship it all the way back to the U.S., costing thousands of dollars. China also has enacted a 25 percent tariff on all U.S. paper imports. Hanson said that GreenWaste Recovery hasn’t shipped to China for a year.

The Bay Area’s waste managers are seeking new buyers, like Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia, which still accept low-quality paper and plastics. But the surge in supply has driven down prices, and those nations are also starting to require inspections and adopting restrictions and high standards.

California’s smaller cities and rural recycling operations have been hit the hardest, forcing places like Manteca to reduce what they accept.

In the Bay Area, waste processors are investing and upgrading, adding new equipment and workers to produce higher-quality bales of finished recycling, said Robert Reed, of San Francisco’s Recology. The domestic market is strengthening, especially for high quality materials like clean glass, cardboard, high-quality plastic and aluminum cans. 

But the crisis triggered by China’s decision could have an upside, experts say, if it leads to better solutions for managing our waste.

It could spur the creation of more profitable uses for recycled materials, the experts say. It could inspire new rules for packaging, shifting more responsibility back to manufacturers and shippers. It could improve education for consumers, helping us make wiser shopping decisions.

“We can no longer rely on exports,” said Lance Klug of the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery. “This is finally forcing us to consider the damage of our single-use ‘throw away’ culture.”

Access the full article here.

California must lead on cutting down plastic waste

Orange County Register

By Anthony Rendon

At least we know the newspaper believes in some recycling.

Recently, editorial writers recycled a tired, old argument that environmental regulation is bad for business.

California proved that wasn’t true for emissions controls and renewable energy. We’re now economic leaders thanks in part to those regulations.

The newspaper now wants to use the same evidence-free argument against legislation to reduce and recycle plastic waste.

They got it all backwards.

If you read the editorial Saturday, you might believe consumer plastics were not a problem for our oceans.

If you read the Long Beach Press-Telegram for September 18, less than six months ago, you might have a different perspective.

On that date, the paper reported that a coastal cleanup in 2017 had turned up 1.7 million food wrappers, 1.6 million plastic bottles, 1 million plastic bottle caps and 750,000 plastic grocery bags.

That sounds like a problem, and it’s one that interferes with Californians’ enjoyment of their beaches up and down the coast.

Oddly, the editorialists cited the Ocean Cleanup Foundation when they argued that consumer plastic is not a problem.

Ocean Cleanup’s own researcher said, on their website, that as much as 99 million tons of municipal plastic waste was improperly disposed of in a single year, with a portion of that finding its way into the ocean.

The editorial suggests that legislation to reduce waste and increase recycling is the problem, not the answer.

Not true. Already, the state’s plastic bag ban has dramatically changed what ends up on our beaches. An analysis of coastal cleanups showed an 85 percent reduction in the percentage of collected waste attributed to plastic bags.

Unlike the newspaper, we know we must do something to reduce the vast quantities of plastic and other consumer waste we our dumping on our planet, whether it is plastic straws or Amazon packaging.

Friends of the LA River takes tons and tons of trash out of the river each year. Michael Atkins, FOLAR’s communications manager told us that, “Every little increment matters.”

Even the tiniest increment matters. A University of California Davis study found the remains of human generated trash in a quarter of the fish sold to consumers that they tested.

We can do something about it.

It doesn’t have to be expensive. Switching from plastic containers to more aluminum means easier recycling with fewer environmental costs.

Recycling is good, but our first goal should be reducing our plastic gluttony. That isn’t costly, either.

We are sure that the California businesses that voluntarily chose to provide straws only when requested have not seen their costs go up. They’re saving money, if anything.

Nevertheless, the newspaper calls it a war on the inexpensive and convenient.

Convenient does not always equal good. There was a time when Americans thought it was convenient to throw their cans, bottles, cigarettes and other trash out the window while driving down the road.

We’re smarter than that now.

We believe we’re also smart enough now to reduce the amount of waste we use while still living rich and productive lives.

Plastic waste is just that: waste. Any time you make something to use it once and throw it away, that’s a waste of resources, labor and money.

We made an economic victory out of cleaning the air and reducing our energy reliance on carbon fuels.

We can do it with plastics, too.

That’s what will lead to a cleaner ocean, and cleaner rivers, parks and neighborhoods.

Not editorial handwringing.

Access the full story here.

California lawmakers propose phasing out plastic products that aren’t recyclable

Los Angeles Times

By Patrick McGreevy

With Californians already barred from getting plastic straws in many restaurants unless they request them and grocery stores not providing single-use plastic bags, state lawmakers are again proposing to ramp up efforts aimed at significantly reducing products that are not recyclable, including plastic cups, forks, spoons and packaging.

New legislation announced Wednesday would require plastic and other single-use materials sold in California to be either reusable, fully recyclable or compostable by 2030.

The measure would also require the state to recycle or otherwise divert from landfills 75% of single-use plastic packaging and products sold or distributed in California, up from the 44% of all solid waste that was diverted as of 2017.

“We have to stop treating our oceans and planet like a dumpster,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), an author of the proposal. “Any fifth-grader can tell you that our addiction to single-use plastics is killing our ecosystems.”

The measure, coauthored by state Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) and scheduled to be introduced Friday, directs the state Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery to develop a plan in the next two years for meeting the goals.

The American Chemistry Council, which has been a leading voice for the plastics industry at the Capitol, wants to review the specific language of the proposed legislation before taking a position, spokesman Tim Shestek said in an email.

But, he said, the council shares the proposal’s objective of significantly reducing the amount of plastic going to landfills, “consistent with the goals we set last year that 100% of plastics packaging is re-used, recycled or recovered by 2040 and that 100% of plastics packaging is recyclable or recoverable by 2030.”

Shestek noted that the council last year supported a bill by Allen that created new requirements that food service packaging used at state facilities be recyclable or compostable.

The latest push follows last year’s approval of a first-in-the-nation state law barring restaurants from providing plastic straws unless they are requested by customers.

It also builds on a law approved by the Legislature in 2014 that made California the first state to prohibit stores from using single-use plastic bags. Stores must offer paper and reusable plastic bags for at least 10 cents each.

Allen said annual global plastic production is rising and now totals 335 million tons. The United States, he said, discards 30 million tons a year.

The national recycling rate for plastic is projected to drop from 9.1% in 2015 to 2.9% this year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other sources, Allen said.

He said California only recycles 15% of single-use plastic in part because the cost of recycling plastics exceeds the value of the resulting material.

“We can’t keep ignoring the public health and pollution threat posed by mounting plastic waste,” Allen said. “Every day Californians generate tons of non-recyclable, non-compostable waste that clog landfills, rivers, and beaches.”

Microplastics are showing up in drinking water consumed by humans, and plastic pollution is harming sea life and costing taxpayers, state officials said. Local governments in California spend an estimated $420 million to clean up plastic.

“We have technology and innovation to improve how we reduce and recycle the plastic packaging and products in our state,” Gonzalez said. “Now, we have to find the political will to do so.”

Access the full story here.

SF Assemblyman Introduces Bill Against Paper Receipts

By Alix Martichoux

SFGATE

San Francisco Assemblyman Phil Ting took a cue from U.S. Senators (famous for grandstanding with massive props) when introducing a bill Tuesday.

Assembly Bill 161 aims to curb the use of paper receipts by requiring businesses in California to offer electronic receipts unless customers specifically ask for a paper copy. Ting, D-San Francisco, argues many people don't realize most paper receipts can't be recycled, so they produce extra waste.

But a normal, extra-long CVS-style receipt apparently wasn't enough to demonstrate Ting's point. That's where the poor intern/legislative aide/unidentified-guy-who-probably-doesn't-get-paid-enough comes in.

For the entirety of the 20-minute press conference announcing the legislation, a man dressed as a giant paper receipt stood on a stool in the background, somehow keeping a straight face.

As Ting gestured at the man-sized-receipt, he explained that most receipts are coated with chemicals prohibited in baby bottles, which can't be recycled and can contaminate other recycled paper because of the chemicals known as Bisphenol-A (BPA) and Bisphenol-S (BPS).

If passed into law, the legislation would require all businesses to provide proof of purchase receipts electronically as the default starting in 2022.

ALSO: New California laws you need to know about for 2019

"Why force you to take the paper? Because most of us, what do we do with this paper when we get home? It goes into the waste bin," Ting said in the press conference.

The penalties in Ting's bill are modeled on a similar bill banning the use of plastic straw in California, said Nick Lapis of Californians Against Waste. It calls for written warnings for the first two violations and a fine of $25 a day for subsequent infractions, with a $300 cap.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Access the full story here.

Berkeley Officials Pass Non-Compostable Food Container Ban, Paper Cup Fee

By Christin Ayers

CBS San Francisco

BERKELEY (CBS SF) — The Berkeley City Council Tuesday night passed a disposable foodware and litter-reduction ordinance that backers say is the most ambitious municipal legislation in the U.S. aimed at reducing the use of single-use disposable foodware.

“History,” Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin tweeted Tuesday night after the vote. “.Berkeley passes the most ambitious groundbreaking policy to reduce throw-away foodware in the nation.”

“Without dramatic change in the products and packaging that we consume, there will be more plastics than fish in the ocean by the year 2050, the ordinance’s lead author City Councilmember Sophie Hahn said at the meeting.

Supporters say the ordinance is backed by a coalition of more than 1,400 local, national, and international organizations participating in the global Break Free From Plastic Movement, including UpStream, The Story of Stuff Project, the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, the Plastic Pollution Coalition and the Surfrider Foundation.

Martin Bourque, the executive director of Berkeley’s Ecology Center, a nonprofit that has collected Berkeley’s recycling since 1973, said in a statement, “Most of the single-use plastic foodware has no value in today’s recycling markets. With China’s ban on importing plastic scrap, cities are actually paying to get rid of it.”

Bourque said, “We cannot recycle our way out of the disposable foodware problem. We have to focus on reduction.”

Under the bill, Berkeley consumers will have to either bring their own cup when getting a drink to go or pay 25 cents for a disposable one.

Some people KPIX 5 talked to said the ordinance goes too far, even for Berkeley.

“25 cents would be too steep,” said UC Berkeley student Joseph Friedman. “As a student, I mean, I don’t have a lot of money. So having to spend 25 cents for a to go cup, it’s not right in my opinion.”

But others said they would simply avoid the fee by carrying their own dishes. Another UC Berkeley student, Gina Wright, said is already carrying reusable utensils everywhere she goes.

“I don’t use plastic spoons or forks anymore, or even compostable ones, because these are reusable,” explained Wright.

Hahn said a majority of Berkeley restaurants are already on-board with her proposal, which requires them to switch to compostable takeout packaging. She went on to say this is just the beginning. In three years, the plan is to launch a program that would allow Berkeley residents to borrow reusable takeout containers and later return them.

“It’s all about changing your habits to good ones, especially when the world is literally falling apart at the hands of human beings,” said Wright.

The 25 cent fee would go into effect next year.

Access the full article here

U.S. Plastic Recycling Rate Projected to Drop to 4.4% in 2018

Guest post courtesy of Plastic Pollution Coalition

A projection by Plastic Pollution Coalition calls recycling a false solution to the global plastic pollution problem.

Plastic Pollution Coalition has published a new engineering estimate showing plummeting recycling rates for plastic in United States. Author Jan Dell, a chemical engineer, used U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data and industry data to estimate the U.S. plastic recycling rate will sink from 9.1% in 2015 to 4.4% in 2018. Dell estimated the recycling rate could drop as low as 2.9% in 2019 if plastic waste import bans are adopted by more countries in Asia.

The engineering estimate shows four factors contributing to the drop in recycling rates: 1. Plastic waste generation is increasing in the U.S. 2. Exports counted as recycled have cratered due to China’s ban. 3. Costs of recycling are increasing since many trucks are needed to collect the widely dispersed waste. 4. Plastic production expansion is keeping the prices of new plastics comparatively low. These factors work against the key premise that waste plastic will someday have sufficient value to drive reclaiming it rather than disposing of it.

“It’s been frequently said: a definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome,” said Dell. “We’ve seen promises, goals, ambitions, and aims from companies for nearly 30 years to increase recycled content and reduce the number of plastic bags they hand out. During that time, plastic use and pollution has increased as well-documented by Jenna Jambeck, Roland Geyer, and other researchers. The projected <5% U.S. plastic recycling rate in 2018 should be a wake-up call to the false promise that the existing voluntary, economic-driven U.S. recycling system is a credible solution to plastic pollution.”

The United States ranks 20th on the list of countries contributing to plastic pollution in the ocean with an estimated 88 to 242 million pounds/year of plastic marine debris. The annual International Coastal Cleanup confirmed the evidence of plastic pollution on U.S. coasts in 2017 when more than 3.7 million pounds of trash, the majority of it plastic, was collected by 209,643 people on a single day. The global movement Break Free From Plastic provides a Brand Audit Toolkit for people participating in cleanups to audit and identify the brands and corporations responsible for plastic pollution.

“Recycling as the solution to plastic pollution is a myth,” said Dianna Cohen, co-founder and CEO of Plastic Pollution Coalition. “Recycling is the end point of the production chain, and it does not work without infrastructure and operational systems, which many places in the U.S. and world, simply do not have. In the U.S., industry looks to recycling as a catch-all, when really we must stop using plastic as a material for single-use. Corporations must step up to change their packaging because they are responsible for 100 percent of the damage it does. It’s time for all of us to work together and demand a systems shift away from ‘disposable’  toward nontoxic reusables.”

Plastic Pollution Coalition is a global alliance of over 750 organizations, businesses, and leaders working toward a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on humans, animals, waterways, oceans, and the environment. Since its founding in 2009, PPC has created a platform to amplify common messaging and best practices, including production of TEDxGreatPacificGarbagePatch in 2010 and ongoing work to foster solutions-based collaboration between members.Through short-film projects like the 2016 "Open Your Eyes" video featuring Jeff Bridges, community building across national borders, and engaging work on policy change, PPC is moving the needle with its coalition members to reduce the worldwide dependence on single-use plastic.


Wieckowski, Muratsuchi named Recycling’s Legislators of the Year

 
Senator Bob Wieckowski and CAW Executive Director Mary Murray

Senator Bob Wieckowski and CAW Executive Director Mary Murray

Assemblymember Muratsuchi (middle), and CAW Director of Advocacy Nick Lapis with Executive Director Mark Murray

Assemblymember Muratsuchi (middle), and CAW Director of Advocacy Nick Lapis with Executive Director Mark Murray

 

Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) and Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) were honored by the environmental non-profit organization, Californians Against Waste (CAW) this week for their leadership and support for recycling legislation.

Each year CAW recognizes members of the Legislature for their efforts and dedication to advance waste reduction and recycling legislation in California at its annual Birthday Bash reception.

Senator Bob Wieckowski was honored in recognition of his efforts to support recycling and waste reduction over the years, both as Chairman of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, as well as his authorship of Senate Bill 168. Under his leadership, California has led the nation in ‘connecting the dots’ between the impacts  of food and organic waste disposal and climate change, and enacted dozens of policies aimed at supporting and funding California’s next generation waste reduction and recycling efforts.

“It is an honor to be recognized by Californians Against Waste for my work on waste reduction and for striving to create markets for recycled materials right here in California,” said Senator Bob Wieckowski. “I am authoring SB 168 because by requiring minimum content standards on all beverage containers, we will reduce pollution and create jobs, benefiting our environment and economy.”

“Senator Wieckowski is keeping California at the forefront of recycling through his authorship of SB 168 this year, which has the potential to be a game-changer by establishing mandatory recycled content in beverage containers”, said Mark Murray, Executive Director of Californians Against Waste. “California’s recycling sector has been hard hit by the loss of China’s recycling markets for empty plastic containers. Senator Wieckowski’s SB 168 will help address this emerging environmental crisis, while creating recycling manufacturing jobs in California.”

Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi was honored for his efforts this year to support recycling and waste reduction as the Acting Chair of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. As Chairman he has succeeded in guiding and advancing several priority recycling policies—many of which had stalled in previous years. His advocacy, persistence, and leadership on these issues has been invaluable in moving the needle forward on reducing waste in California.

“I am honored to be recognized by Californians Against Waste this evening.  The work that CAW does in supporting legislation on recycling and reducing waste is critical to preserving our environment”, said Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi. “As acting chair of Assembly Natural Resources, I truly appreciate working with CAW to fight to protect our environment.”

“In his time as a long-term member, and current Acting Chair, of the Natural Resources Committee, Assemblymember Muratsuchi has been a stalwart environmental champion, resisting the powerful industry groups that have sought to stifle California’s environmental progress,” said Nick Lapis, Director of Advocacy for Californians Against Waste. “In both advocating for positive environmental legislation and in stopping the bad proposals that have gone through the Natural Resources Committee, Assemblymember Muratsuchi has shown tremendous courage and dedication to representing the needs of his constituents.”

Founded in 1977, CAW is a non-profit environmental research and advocacy organization that identifies, develops, promotes and monitors policy solutions to pollution and conservation issues that pose threats to public health and the environment. CAW has pioneered and advocated for the implementation of many of the waste reduction and recycling policies and programs that have made California a leader in the nation.

Senator Wieckowski and Assemblymember Muratsuchi were recognized at CAW’s 41st Birthday Bash on Tuesday, August 14th, at the Citizen Hotel in Sacramento.

Eggman Introduces Legislation to Create a “Right to Repair” for Electronics

Read the original press release here.

SACRAMENTO—Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) has announced that she will be introducing the California Right to Repair Act. The legislation would require manufacturers of electronics to make diagnostic and repair information, as well as equipment or service parts, available to product owners and to independent repair shops.
 
“The Right to Repair Act will provide consumers with the freedom to have their electronic products and appliances fixed by a repair shop or service provider of their choice, a practice that was taken for granted a generation ago but is now becoming increasingly rare in a world of planned obsolescence,” Eggman said.
 
People who can’t afford the high price of manufacturer-based repair services are increasingly forced to prematurely replace durable goods, such as phones, TVs, and appliances. Repairing and reusing electronics is not only a more efficient use of the scarce materials that go into manufacturing the products, but it can also stimulate local economies instead of unsustainable overseas factories.
 
“People shouldn’t be forced to ‘upgrade’ to the newest model every time a replaceable part on their smartphone or home appliance breaks,” said Mark Murray, Executive Director of Californians Against Waste. “These companies are profiting at the expense of our environment and our pocketbooks as we become a throw-away society that discards over 6 million tons of electronics every year.”
 
"The bill is critical to protect independent repair shops and a competitive market for repair, which means better service and lower prices. It also helps preserve the right of individual device owners to understand and fix their own property,” Kit Walsh, Senior Staff Attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation said. “We should encourage people to take things apart and learn from them. After all, that's how many of today's most successful innovators got started."
 
"Consumers Union thanks Assemblymember Eggman for her efforts to ensure consumers have the choice to fix their own electronic devices or have them fixed by an independent repair servicer”, said Maureen Mahoney, Policy Analyst for Consumers Union. “Consumers are now being forced to go back to the manufacturer for even simple repairs or refurbishing, or to throw out the device and buy a new one. We look forward to working with Assemblymember Eggman to secure this important ownership right for consumers."
 
“We should be working to reduce needless waste – repairing things that still have life -- but companies use their power to make things harder to repair. Repair should be the easier, more affordable choice and it can be, but first we need to fix our laws," said Emily Rusch, Executive Director of CALPIRG. "Our recent survey, Recharge Repair, showed a surge in interest in additional repair options after Apple announced battery issues. The Right to Repair Act would give people those options."
 
California joins 17 other states who have introduced similar legislation, which includes: Washington, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia.
 

State announces grant awards that "fights climate change by feeding the hungry"

CalRecycle issued 31 grants totaling $9.4 million which will go to projects that reduce the amount of edible food sent to landfills and feed people in need. CalRecycle’s Food Waste Prevention and Rescue Grant Program is made possible due to the allocation of funding from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund decided on each year by the state Legislature.

In a press release, CalRecycle Director Scott Smithline said, "bolstering California’s food recovery infrastructure will help feed communities in need, create new jobs, and result in significant greenhouse gas reductions”. The projects are estimated to decrease an estimated 6 million tons of food waste landfilled in California each year.

One of the grant awardees, San Diego Food Systems Alliance, announced in a press release, "This grant will support the Smart Kitchens San Diego project, in partnership with Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank and LeanPath, Inc. to provide tools and technical assistance for selected large food production facilities to effectively reduce food waste and donate edible food." Barbara Hamilton, Director of Strategic Initiatives of San Diego Food System Alliance, said,  “Although there is plenty of good food in San Diego county that could be donated to hungry people, non-profit food recovery agencies often lack sufficient transportation and manpower to collect the food”. The Smart Kitchens San Diego project funded with the grant will provide transportation vehicles, refrigeration, and support to facilitate food donation.

LA Sanitation announced in a press release that many of their partner organizations were among the grant awardees, "Several of the organizations working with recycLA service providers have been selected by CalRecycle to receive grants to continue their work in reducing food waste, including Food Finders, Food Forward, LA Kitchen, and St. Francis Center." LA Sanitation Director and General Manager Enrique C. Zaldivar stated, "While recycling will help our City move towards achieving zero waste, food waste also plays a critical role in reducing our dependence on landfills and tackling food insecurity. In cooperation with these organizations, we are on the pathway to getting food to those who really need it most and to reducing the City's dependence on landfills."

The Food Waste Prevention and Rescue grant program isn't the only program from CalRecycle that food rescue groups can benefit from. They can also choose to partner with organic waste recycling projects that are eligible for the Organics Grant Program, which is a highly competitive grant program that prioritizes projects with a food waste prevention or rescue element. The role that food waste prevention and rescue has played in meeting organic waste diversion mandates has created many opportunities for partnerships that have resulted not only in less edible food ending up in landfills, but also benefiting the food insecure families in California. 

The future of these grant programs is in the hands of the state Legislature and the Governor, and each year we remind them of the effectiveness of these programs. This month the Governor released his plan for the allocation of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funding, and it proposes a 50% cut in CalRecycle funding, despite CalReycle's programs being highly oversubscribed as well as among the most cost effective.

Debate Over Tethered Bottle Caps Heats Up

In the past few weeks, nearly a dozen media outlets have covered the statewide debate over Assemblymember Mark Stone's AB 319*, a bill that would require all plastic beverage containers sold in California to have caps that are connected to their bottle. As the third most common item found polluting California beaches, AB 319 has the potential to prevent the littering, landfilling, and pollution caused by more than five billion bottle caps discarded in California every year. CAW supports the bill.

One Way to Cut Plastic Pollution

The following is as published in an Op-Ed to the Sacramento Bee by Miriam Gordon and Nick Lapis on January 3, 2018. Read the original here. CAW is in support of the referenced bill, AB 319.

Bottle_caps_2.jpg

"If you’re old enough to remember walking the beaches of Malibu or Coronado in the 1970s, you can vouch for what was then often the truth of beach life in California – stepping on pop-tops, the aluminum ring that came off after opening a can of soda.

Today, small plastic caps from bottled water line soccer fields and litter streets, parks and beaches, where they trail only cigarette butts and food wrappers among our leading sources of litter.

As these caps proliferate as a public nuisance, it’s useful to remember how pop-tops disappeared almost overnight. The beverage industry perfected a better way to seal aluminum cans: the stay-top, which remains attached and gets recycled along with the rest of the can.

But just as the nuisance of throw-away aluminum rings was eliminated, an equivalent one began to emerge. In 1977, the bottled water revolution was launched, and sales have been surging ever since. In 2016, bottled water passed soda as America’s top-selling beverage – a total of 12.8 billion gallons a year, packaged in more than 50 billion plastic bottles, most sealed with detachable caps.

These tiny plastic caps are not just unsightly, but have become a serious environmental hazard. Small, buoyant and easy for wildlife to ingest, they are part of the plastic pollution in oceans and waterways. Seabirds are dying of starvation with stomachs full of bottle caps and other plastic debris.

The good news is that just like pop-tops, plastic bottle caps can be eliminated. Existing technology makes it relatively easy to tether the caps during bottling. Most companies replace the machinery entirely every five years or so.

One water bottler, CG Roxane that sells Crystal Geyser water, recently changed to a tethered cap in plants in Texas and in California to curb litter and plastic debris in the ocean.

The industry is well aware of consumer concerns about the environmental impact of all those plastic bottles, and how those concerns might hurt its growth as it competes with reusable aluminum water bottles.

In addition, this important step would come at an opportune time – just as China has decided to stop taking the plastic waste we’ve been sending them for years. Meeting California’s goal of 75 percent recycling will require a much greater reliance on in-state plastic bottle recyclers such as Carbon Lite, which wants the caps and recycles them.

There is a bill to eliminate detachable caps before the Legislature, Assembly Bill 319. We need a legislated solution because most leaders in the beverage industry have refused to take the kind of action they did in the 1970s to protect the environment and prevent litter.

Miriam Gordon is policy director at the UPSTREAM Policy Institute in San Francisco and can be contacted at miriam@upstreampolicy.org.

Nick Lapis is director of advocacy for Californians Against Waste and can be contacted at nicklapis@cawrecycles.org."

Reflecting on 2017- Gearing up for 2018

Californians Against Waste has been working hard all year to advance recycling and waste reduction in the state. Today, we're looking back at all we were able to accomplish, and all that we hope to accomplish in the future, as a result of your continued support. 

Increased Funding for Recyclers

Bottles.jpg

We began the year urging Governor Brown and the State Legislature to prioritize the Bottle Bill, and we haven't given up. 
This fall, CalRecycle, the states recycling agency, exercised its administrative authority to propose emergency regulations to increase state payments, called processing payments, made to recycling centers. The increased payments to recycling centers in 2018 will help struggling centers stay open and allow our State Legislature to continue negotiating permanent reform. 

 

 

 

CAW Legislation Delivers

Gavel.jpg

In February, we saw a CAW sponsored law prohibiting the use of the term "biodegradable" from being used in the marketing of plastic products get put into action. Twenty-three of the State's District Attorneys announced that they had reached a settlement with Walmart to pay nearly $1 million, the largest fine issued to date for the sale of products that make misleading environmental claims. 
In March, further success in cracking down on false environmental advertising came in the form of a federal appeals court denying an appeal filed by a company that was sued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for using deceptive claims of "biodegradability". The decision sided with an Amicus brief filed by CAW in affirming the FTC's authority to prohibit greenwashing. 

 

2017 Put a Dent in Food Waste

Bread.png

We sponsored two bills aimed at addressing the need to reduce food waste, both of which were passed the State Legislature and signed into law. AB 954, which promotes the use of uniform phrases for food date labels, and AB 1219, which updates and expands on California's food donor protection laws and requires statewide outreach to increase awareness of these laws. 

 

 

The Fight for Sustainable Packaging Continues

EPS.jpg

Over the summer we saw a wave of support for replacing Styrofoam food containers with more sustainable alternatives, which led to local action by ten local governments, including Los Angeles County. While the statewide legislation to ban polystyrene food containers is on hold until 2018, there is no shortage of supporters who are urging their own cities to pass a ban

 

 

 

New Laws to Reduce Waste Approved

Signature.jpg

In September, the Governor signed almost every recycling bill that passed the State Legislature into law, and approved the allocation of $40 million from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund for CalRecycle's grant programs, which fund composting and recycling facilities, as well as food waste prevention. 

 

 

 

 

Building a Future for Statewide Composting

compost.jpg

In October, CalRecycle published draft regulations for the implementation of SB 1383, the Short Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Act, which was signed into law in 2016. When final, these regulations will require a 75% reduction in the disposal of organic waste by 2025, as well as a 20% reduction of edible food waste. With these regulations, statewide composting will finally become a reality. 

 

 

 

 

Plastic Bag Ban Proves Successful

plastic bags.png

November 8th was the one year anniversary of the passage of Prop 67, the statewide single use plastic grocery bag ban. Litter data from Coastal Clean-up Day, held annually in September, shows a substantial decrease in plastic grocery bag litter. Preliminary data from the 2017 clean-up reported by hundreds of clean-up crews across the state shows that plastic grocery bag litter had dropped by 72% compared to 2010, and accounts for less than 1.5% of items littered. 

 

 

 

Help us Continue the Fight

capitol.jpg

As we approach the new year with our eyes on 2018 legislation that will further improve recycling and waste prevention, we remain focused on some key issues: fixing the Bottle Bill, replacing expanded polystyrene food containers with sustainable alternatives, reducing food waste, and increasing recycling infrastructure. 

 

 

 

 

We're celebrating these successes by taking this opportunity to say THANK YOU to all of our supporters who made these 2017 wins possible and to those who continue to support our work.