Governor Newsom signed this legislation on October 5, 2021. The Surfrider Foundation worked closely with the bill co-sponsors, allies, and coalitions to advocate for this legislation through our California chapters and powerful grassroots activist network.
Currently exported mixed plastic waste is deemed “recycled” in California, even though it is landfilled, burned, dumped, or otherwise improperly disposed of. Countries that receive plastic waste oftentimes do not have the infrastructure and ability to manage all the waste. This ends up doing more harm to communities and the environment.
This law closes this loophole on January 1, 2024, and in order for exported mixed plastic waste to be counted as diversion through recycling, rather than disposal, it must meet the following criteria:
Plastic waste is a mixture of polyethylene, polypropylene, or polyethylene terephthalate and each material will be separated and recycled
Plastic waste export is not prohibited by any applicable law or treaty of the country of destination and the import of the plastic waste into the country of destination will be conducted following all applicable laws and treaties of the country of destination.
AB 881 increases the transparency of plastic waste that is being shipped out of California and ensures that only truly recyclable materials will be counted towards the state and local recycling goals. Ultimately, this bill would prevent California from simply exporting our plastic waste problems.
This bill complements Assembly Joint Resolution 4 (AJR 4) which declares California to be in favor of the United States’ ratification of the Basel Convention at the earliest opportunity and would request the Biden Administration to accomplish this ratification as a matter of urgency. The Convention protects developing countries from rich, industrialized countries that export wastes to those countries that cannot properly manage them, resulting in dumping and pollution.