CA Gov. Gavin Newsom signs SB 54 against plastic pollution

Photo of trash bins on campus
Theo Wyss-Flamm/Senior Staff
SB 54, a bill aiming to reduce plastic pollution, was signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday and will require all packaging in the state to be recyclable or compostable by 2032.

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Thursday that would require all packaging in California to be recyclable or compostable by 2032.

According to a press release from Newsom’s office, the legislation is part of the California Climate Commitment, Newsom’s $53.9 billion plan to mitigate the effects of climate change and protect disadvantaged communities against pollution.

CalRecycle will lead the implementation of SB 54, according to Maria West, communications director for CalRecycle.

“Californians have called for an end to the plastic and other trash pollution that is filling our neighborhoods, rivers, oceans and landfills,” West said in an email. “This law is a critical first step towards ending our disposable system by holding manufacturers responsible for turning their packaging waste into sustainable new products.”

According to West, SB 54 will support the California Climate Commitment by ensuring manufacturers reuse waste in products.

West added the law will require manufacturers to pay $500 million each year over a decade beginning in 2027 to remedy the effects of plastic pollution on disadvantaged communities and the environment.

“By holding manufacturers responsible for designing their products intentionally for reuse and remanufacturing we move from the disposable system that is polluting our waterways and our neighborhoods to a circular system that reduces the harms caused by single-use products,” West said in an email.

The press release noted that SB 54’s signing was made possible by negotiations between lawmakers and stakeholders regarding a since-removed initiative on the November ballot.

Beyond its goal to cut plastic packaging, the bill also includes a plan for 65% of all single-use plastic in the state to be recycled by the same year, with benchmarks set for 2028 and 2030.

“We need to be incentivizing a move away in general from plastic products and acknowledge the fact that a lot of it is based on petroleum products, that the material itself and its manufacture and reuse is not sustainable,” said Rachel Morello-Frosch, a campus professor in the department of environmental science, policy and management.

Morello-Frosch said the recycling industry itself tends to burden marginalized populations with waste through “wishcycling.” According to Morello-Frosch, “wishcycling” refers to the assumption that if one simply tosses products into the recycling bin, the waste will be properly managed.

Instead, these products are exported to other countries for processing. She added that the facilities that process recycling are disproportionately located in communities of color.

“As someone who grew up and represents the San Fernando Valley, I see firsthand how disadvantaged and low-income communities bear the brunt of plastic pollution,” said CA State Assemblymember Luz Rivas, who was a joint author of the bill, in the press release. “With the amendments that were proposed by my Assembly Natural Resources Committee, we now have one of the strongest plastics reduction laws in the nation.”

Contact Zachary Khouri at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @zachakhouri.