Westside State Senator Ben Allen has tried to convince his legislative colleagues for years to act on the crisis of microplastics polluting the environment. These small kernels of plastic, found in packaging filler and polystyrene, have been found to be so pervasive as to make their way into animal and human bloodstreams.
The fruits of his labor were realized this week when his Senate Bill 54 (SB54) passed the Assembly side of the legislature and was signed by Governor Gavin Newsome into law.
“For far too long, plastic waste has been a growing burden for humans, animals, and the water, soil, and air we need to exist,” said Senator Allen, who chairs the California Legislature’s Environmental Caucus and the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. “We knew that we needed to act. And in this time of extreme polarization in our nation, California was able to show that we can pass strong environmental legislation with bipartisan support that brought together the environmental and business communities. I’m so grateful to the ballot measure proponents who helped to force this issue, the many advocates who worked so hard through the negotiations, and the legislators and staff who recognized the need for action. With this new law, California continues its tradition of global environmental leadership – tackling a major problem in a way that will move and grow markets in sustainable innovations, create incentives for investment, and give tools to other states and countries to help play their part in this fight.”
The Bill passed with broad bipartisan support and had the backing of dozens of environmental and civic organizations, among them The Nature Conservancy, Environment California, and The League of California Cities. The bill was also supported by businesses Waste Management and Seventh Generation.
The new law provides ambitious environmental mandates through a rates-and-dates system that will ensure all covered material is recyclable or compostable within 10 years and calls for a 25 percent reduction in the amount of plastic-covered material introduced to the market within the same timeframe. Additionally, the new law creates the California Plastic Pollution Mitigation Fund, which will dedicate $500 million per year for the next decade – paid for by industry – to fund the monitoring and mitigation of plastics pollution primarily in disadvantaged, low-income, and rural communities.
Enforcement will come via a Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) to manage industry efforts to comply with the law’s requirements. The PRO will create an implementation plan, which will be reviewed by a new advisory board composed of diverse perspectives and subject to final approval by the state’s CalRecycle agency.