California passes bills to reduce and recycle plastic waste

Two months after state lawmakers passed sweeping legislation aimed at reducing plastic waste, they passed more than half a dozen new bills that would further reduce and clean up California’s waste stream.

Gavin Newsom signs the bills — and most observers think he is — a trip to a grocery store, electronics store, or general retail store will be a game-changer for most residents.

“If any of these bills had passed, it would have been huge,” said Nick Lapis, advocacy director for Californians Against West. “But all that together? It’s incredible.”

A high-profile bill would affect plastic bags in the produce and bulk bin sections of grocery stores. From 2025, these bags will have to be reusable, recyclable or compostable. This comes six years after California banned single-use checkout bags in grocery and retail stores.

Another bill deals with thermoformed plastics – containers that have been molded by heat. Common thermoformed plastic items include food clamshell containers, plastic trays – such as cooked chicken – cups and lids. A certain percentage of these objects – 10% by 2025 and 30% by 2030 – must be made of recycled plastic. If they cannot meet these targets, the company that used the plastic to wrap the item will have to pay an annual fine based on their failure.

A propane tank is placed on the ground. A bill passed by the California legislature would ban the sale of single-use propane cylinders, favoring refillable propane containers.

(Stuart Leavenworth/Los Angeles Times)

Other bills deal with the waste generated by batteries, electronic devices and wine and liquor bottles, the mercury in some fluorescent light bulbs and single-use propane canisters – the curse of campgrounds in across the state. The sale of these disposable propane containers will be banned from 2028, prompting refillable containers, which are increasingly available.

Unsurprisingly, some bills have met with opposition. California trade groups representing apple, strawberry and blueberry growers were unhappy with the thermoforming bill.

With the California Chamber of Commerce, Plastics Industry Assn. And the American Chemistry Council, which produces organizations and other foodservice industry associations, says the bill isn’t necessary given sweeping plastics legislation the state passed this month. summer.

“We now have a situation where manufacturers are subject to two sets of regulations and two sets of fees,” a spokesperson for the American Chemistry Council said in a statement.

The new law also includes a landmark bill that would eliminate the diversion credit that municipalities currently use to manage waste.

The Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989 states that cities and towns must dispose of at least 50% of their waste from landfills and in some other form of recycling, composting or reuse. This allows them to send up to 10% of that waste to two solid waste incinerators left in the state: the Southeast Long Beach Resource Recovery Facility and Coventa Stanislaus, outside of Modesto. .

The new bill redefines incineration as disposal, potentially reducing the appeal of this form of waste disposal for cities and towns.

“I’m really glad the bill passed,” said Whitney Amaya, cremation organizer for East Yard Business Communities for Environmental Justice. “It will redefine incineration as disposal and bring us one step closer to the zero waste scenario.”

Amaya has lived near the Long Beach Incinerator since she was 6 and although she doesn’t suffer from respiratory illnesses like many of her neighbors, she said the pollution at the site can be unbearable.

“There are days when it’s getting harder and harder to just breathe,” she said. “You feel it when you drive with your windows down. It’s here.”

Finally, a bill focuses on the waste generated by human carcasses when they are exhumed or cremated. Modeled after Washington’s law on composting the human body, the bill would allow California cemeteries and cremation grounds to adopt more environmentally friendly practices, such as decomposition.

“I always hated the idea that my last act on this world would be to pollute the air or to be filled with toxic chemicals and buried in a vault with a huge carbon footprint,” Lapis said. “Choosing to compost your body after death gives you one last opportunity to help leave the world a better place than you found it.”

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Bryce K. Locke