Waste Legislation : Anti-plastic waste initiative qualified for California ballot

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The California state legislature approved an anti-plastic waste initiative for the November 2022 ballot.

On Monday, county election officers were notified by Secretary of State Shirley Weber that the measure had garnered more than 623,212 petition signatures, the minimum the state requires for the measure to go before voters next year.

The initiative would have the state implement regulations to reduce plastic packaging whilst ensuring that said packaging will be recyclable, reusable or compostable.

Other regulations to potentially be enforced include the establishment of common labelling standards for recyclable products, the introduction of consumer centric recycling initiatives like take back programmes and deposits, the inclusion of recycled material when manufacturing single-use plastic packaging as well as the general prohibition of Styrofoam containers in the food service industry.

The new ballot measure would also tax producers of single-use plastic packaging by 1%, with revenue generated in this form to be allocated to restoration projects such as beach clean-ups or for the building of recycling and composting facilities.

The fight to stop plastic pollution is now taken to voters after previous environmental measures intended to phase out single-use plastic packaging were killed or shelved at State Capitol in previous years, after heavy opposition from the plastic and oil industry.

A coalition of environmental groups has welcomed the proposed initiative.

“The manufacturers of disposable plastic products and packaging have been making empty promises for decades, all the while they have hired lobbyists to stop any legislation designed to actually rein in the amount of plastic pollution they generate,” said Nick Lapis, director of advocacy for the Californians Against Waste. “It’s time for the voters to get a say.”

Environmentalists have long advocated for a plastic crackdown, stating that its imperative that California reduce the amount of non-biodegradable plastic that ends up in waterways.

To illustrate the urgency of the problem, the World Economic Forum projected that plastic would outweigh fish in the oceans by 2050. Oceana, a wildlife advocacy group, released a report last year stating that since 2009, 1800 marine mammals and sea turtles had gotten entangled in plastic waste.

The American Chemistry Council and the Plastics Industry Association, two of the largest groups representing the plastic industry, declined to comment on the proposed legislative measure as of Monday evening.