California has passed what is said to be the toughest law on single-use plastics and packaging waste in the United States.
The law, Senate Bill 54, requires that by 2028 at least 30% of plastic packaging in the state be recyclable, with that number increasing to 40% by 2030, and 65% by 2032. The bill also requires a 25% reduction in plastic waste by 2032.
The law goes further with polystyrene, requiring recycling to hit 25% by 2025. If the number isn’t reached, the material will be completely banned in the state. The law allows CalRecycle the flexibility to increase the amount of plastic that needs to be reduced if it is shown the amount of waste has grown.
The law also requires that the plastics are recyclable or compostable within 10 years. Additionally, it creates the California Plastic Pollution Mitigation Fund, which allocates $500 million per year for 10 years beginning in 2027, which will be funded by the plastic industry, to monitor and mitigate plastic pollution. The bill also calls for a $50,000 per day for any business or entity not in compliance.
The plastic law quickly passed the California Assembly 67-2 on June 29 and the Senate 29-0 on June 30. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill shortly after it passed.
Despite the pace of the final legislative push, there were years of work on the bill that was first introduced in 2018, and weeks of debate and negotiation between officials and environmental groups leading up to its passage. The Santa Monica Daily Press reported several letters from more than 20 environmental groups were sent to legislatures on June 19 raising concerns.
With most issues resolved, the law ultimately supersedes a ballot initiative that was set to head to voters in November. With the law’s passage, supporters and organizers agreed to withdraw the ballot measure just before the June 30 deadline to do so.
According to CalMatters, the Plastics Industry Association could not support the bill, but it “presents opportunities to continue to work to solve the recycling issues in the state of California in a way that a ballot initiative would not.”
The Ocean Conservancy estimates the legislation will eliminate 23 million tons of plastic over the next 10 years. California has previously passed laws that targeted single-use plastic straws and require plastic bottles to contain at least 50% recycled materials by 2030. The state also adopted a microplastics reduction policy.
California has taken on other sustainability initiatives recently, including a bill that aims to keep organic materials, such as food waste, out of landfills.