California’s proposed legislation was introduced to phase out single-use plastic food containers and other packaging that isn’t recyclable or compostable. It would also apply to polystyrene foam containers used for takeout meals, as well as plastic detergent bottles. Assembly Bill 1080, introduced Thursday, would phase out the single-use plastics by 2030 and follows concerns about plastic debris going in oceans and on beaches.
If the legislation becomes law, some experts believe it could lead to other states taking similar steps. In 2014 California became the first state with a single-use plastic bag ban, they noted, which led to at least four other states introducing similar measures. “What we do in California tends to spread across the country,” said Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, a nonprofit environmental group. “If manufacturers have to comply with this rule in California, they probably are going to do this across the country.”
If passed, Murray said the legislation would be a “win” for companies making or marketing two common recycled plastic materials: polyethylene terephthalate (or PET) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE). PET is commonly used for plastic bottles that contain water or soda, while HDPE is used in milk jugs, shampoo bottles, household cleaning bottles and in some trash bags and cereal liners. “For some plastic manufacturers who have invested in recycling and closed-loop recycling, this is going to be a boon,” Murray said. “The losers are going to be polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride and polypropylene, because those are the ones that aren’t being recycled.”
Proponents of the legislation say it could help reduce the problem of plastic ending up along beaches and in oceans and rivers. The issue has been highlighted by reports of whales and other marine life found with plastic items in their stomachs.
“We have to stop treating our oceans and planet like a dumpster,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, who authored AB 1080. “Any fifth-grader can tell you that our addiction to single-use plastics is killing our ecosystems.” She added, “We have technology and innovation to improve how we reduce and recycle the plastic packaging and products in our state. Now we have to find the political will to do so.”