Yesterday SB 54 was signed into law establishing one of the world’s largest Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs. The law has a special focus on reducing plastic waste and its harm to communities and the environment. This bill is also among the most far-reaching in its control over the plastic packaging industry.
“As the nation’s longest-running curbside recycling program, we know firsthand how devastating the aggressive switch to plastic packaging has been on recycling programs, disadvantaged communities, public health, and the environment,” said Martin Bourque, Executive Director of the Ecology Center in Berkeley, Ca. “The plastic industry spends millions of dollars every year to trick the public into thinking all plastic packaging is recyclable. Now they will have to rethink their packaging strategies or pay full cost for their impacts.”
The bill, which took form with the input of several environmental organizations including the Ecology Center, establishes guardrails to ensure compliance. As Bourque explains, “The industry-run Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) that this law creates will require more watchdogging than ever to ensure it does not follow age-old industry tricks, false promises, and greenwashing. We are satisfied that CalRecycle will have the necessary authority to ensure the PRO lives up to its legal requirements, and we will be watching to make sure they do.”
While the full impact of this bill will take time to realize, Bourque sums up the situation in saying:
“Addressing the plastic packing crisis is long overdue, and we are thrilled to finally place the responsibility where it belongs, on the shoulders of the producers, while also ensuring funding for clean-up in the most impacted communities.
“This is the biggest development in waste reduction policy in more than 30 years. Not only does it address longstanding fallacies that all plastic is recyclable, but it also establishes a whole new paradigm for waste reduction and for who bears the burdens of harmful plastic packaging.”
The historic passage of SB 54 comes just as we kick off Plastic Free July, a month dedicated to raising awareness and taking action to combat plastic pollution globally, and a time when we certainly could use some good news.
The Ecolgoy Center will have more to come on this topic as we dive into the bill’s projected impacts, the nuances built into the bill, and what it might mean for our region. In the meantime, below are recently published news features which further explain what this bill is and should do for California.
News on SB 54:
In ‘historic achievement’ for environmentalists, an 11th hour plastics deal becomes law, The Sacramento Bee, July 1, 2022
California Requires Plastics Makers to Foot the Bill for Recycling, The New York Times, July 1, 2022
Deal pulls California plastic trash measure from ballot, Cal Matters, June 30, 2022
Updated: California SB 54 ups plastic pressure, Waste Today, July 1, 2022
Last-minute deal in California sets the nation’s toughest rules for the reduction of plastics, Jefferson Public Radio, July 1, 2022