SACRAMENTO – California environmentalists are frustrated that state lawmakers haven’t done more to prevent plastic waste from polluting the oceans and piling up in landfills.
The initiative would require plastic manufacturers to ensure that their products are recyclable or reusable, and drastically reduce the amount of plastic that people use once and then throw in the trash.
Supporters proposed the initiative after their efforts to phase out non-recyclable plastics died repeatedly at the State Capitol in recent years after fierce opposition from the plastics and oil industries.
“Manufacturers of single-use plastic products and packaging have made empty promises for decades while hiring lobbyists to stop any legislation that actually aims to curb the amount of plastic pollution they cause,” said Nick Lapis, advocacy director for the Californians against waste. “It is time for the voters to have their say.”
Secretary of State Shirley Weber told district election officials on Monday that the measure had qualified for the vote with more than 623,212 valid signatures, which is the minimum required by the state.
The initiative is a broader version of two waste prevention laws that failed in the Capitol in recent years. It would require manufacturers to make all plastic packaging and single-use food items, including cups, straws and utensils, recyclable or compostable by 2030.
• Create a fee of up to 1 cent for manufacturers on every plastic item or product with plastic packaging. The money would be used to build recycling and composting facilities, as well as restoration projects such as beach cleanups.
• Prohibit grocery vendors, including restaurants and grocery stores, from using styrofoam and other plastic foam carry-away containers.
• Encouraging manufacturers to reduce the plastic packaging and single-use products they produce as much as possible. That might require them to offer more reusable containers.
Two of the largest industry associations, the American Chemistry Council and the Plastics Industry Association, did not respond to a request for comment on Monday evening.
Environmentalists say it is imperative that California reduce the amount of non-biodegradable plastic that ends up in waterways. Plastic use has skyrocketed in recent decades, and the nonprofit World Economic Forum predicts that by 2050, fish will be outweighed by the amount of plastic in the oceans.
A report released last year by Oceana, a wildlife advocacy group, found that marine mammals and sea turtles frequently ingest or become entangled in plastic waste. The group documented about 1,800 cases since 2009.
Dustin Gardiner is a contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @dustingardiner