The California legislative session started off in full sprint this year, with Senators and Assembly Members tripping over themselves to come up with bills that address coastal plastic pollution due in large part to the outstanding awareness campaigns and upsurge of local action to address the issue in recent years. At the end of the first quarter, we have several priority pieces of legislation that Surfrider Foundation supports in our efforts to Rise Above Plastics.
Assembly Bill 158 (Levine) is a single-use bag ban that is supported by the Surfrider Foundation. Assembly Member Levine proposed this bill to stem the tide of plastic pollution affecting our coastal waterways. The bill would prohibit the distribution of single-use plastic bags to customers by January 1, 2015, and allow for the sale of reusable, recycled paper bags and in some instances compostable bags. The bill follows the lead of 71 cities and counties in California that have already acted to regulate single-use bags at the local level.
Senate Bill 405 (Padilla) is also a bag ban bill that is supported by Surfrider Foundation. It prohibits the distribution of single-use plastic bags and allows for the sale of reusable and paper bags. Heal the Bay and other environmental groups in the Clean Seas Coalition have been working with Senator Padilla over the past three years in efforts to curb single-use bag pollution. The Clean Seas Coalition encourages the authors in the Assembly and the Senate to work together to pass these similar bills.
Assembly Bill 1142 (Bloom) is a bill that is proposed to ban smoking on state beaches and parks. Much like the Surfrider sponsored bill (SB 4) from three years ago, this bill would continue what most local beaches up and down the state's coast have already begun, including 43 local beach bans in California and the entire Santa Monica Bay area. This bill would target not only the litter from cigarette butts (THE most heavily littered item found on the beach), but also the second-hand smoke that can be a public health hazard.
Top Littered Items
Senate Bill 529 (Leno) is written to address fast food packaging. SB 529 proposes to phase out the use of fast food takeout packaging that cannot be either recycled or composted in the communities where it is distributed. Takeout food packaging continues to comprise a disproportionately large portion of litter and non-recycled waste. Up to 49% of the litter stream can be linked back to fast food chains, according to Clean Water Action. The bill also aims establish producer responsibility programs for the litter through specified waste reduction targets.
Assembly Bill 521 (Hueso and Stone) is a bill that will require producers of top littered plastic items to help stop plastic pollution from entering the marine environment. The bill is entitled the "Plastic Pollution Reduction Producer Responsibility Act." The bill would enhance, expand, and coordinate existing local and state marine plastic pollution prevention measures and provide urgently needed resources to achieve a more comprehensive solution. AB 521 would require producers of the most prevalent marine plastic pollution items to play a greater role in achieving a solution to the pollution problem.
Reach out to your legislators now or stay tuned to Surfrider Foundation's Action Network for ways to take individual action to support these bills in the near future!