Californians Rally Behind Landmark Plastics Reduction Bill

This week, the west steps of the Sacramento State Capitol turned into a carnival of color and passion as activists united to call on legislators to take bold steps addressing the plastic crisis. This was a demonstration of recent polling showing that 90% of Californians are concerned about plastic pollution. 

Story of Stuff joined environmental groups, recyclers, waste haulers, students, businesses, local government representatives and legislators, all rallying behind Senate Bill 54 and Assembly Bill 1080, known as the Californian Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act.

The legislation establishes a framework for deep reductions in single-use plastic sold in the state, along with mechanisms to create circularity around what remains. It seeks to reconfigure recyclability around what material is sold on the recycling market as opposed to what can theoretically be recycled. This existing approach has bloated our blue bins over the years and created an overreliance on foreign markets where we’ve been sending our unrecycled waste.

The bill is set for a final showdown over the next month, which will determine whether it passes final floor votes in the Assembly and Senate before reaching Governor Newsom’s desk. While the fight is far from won, the argument about the scale of the changes required is largely over. Legislators, citizens, even the plastics industry, have publicly acknowledged that broad and deep changes are required. Representatives from the American Chemistry Council stating “The plastics industry is very supportive of the bills. However, we’re asking for a fix on them.”

Whether that is true or not is another matter entirely, but the fact that they consider it necessary to say this represents a huge step forward in the discourse. Public perception is moving aggressively against the product they’re creating, and they’re working on a defensive strategy. 

Unfortunately, winning the battle of the narrative doesn’t automatically translate into the systemic changes we need to see in order to protect our planet, but it does represent a precursor for what’s to come. In the meantime we need to drive massive public pressure to legislators, pushing them to listen to the people, not the narrow interests whose profit is derived from a product that is harming people and planet at every stage of its lifecycle. 

If you’re in California, fill out your details to find and call your legislators and urge them to support SB 54 and AB 1080 in their next vote.