Plastic Pollution, Expanded Polystyrene Foam
September 20 2018

Gov Brown Signs Bills and Helps CA Kick the Plastic Habit

by Shannon Waters

Governor Brown signed two bills Thursday afternoon that will help reduce plastic pollution in California! 

The first is SB 1335 or the Sustainable Packaging for the State of California Act, authored by Senator Ben Allen. This bill addresses EPS foam (commonly known as “Styrofoam®”) and requires all food service packaging provided at California state parks, beaches, and other state facilities to be reusable, compostable, or recyclable. EPS take-out food packaging and wrappers are some of the most common types of plastic pollution found at California beach cleanups, accounting for over 20% of items picked up at California’s Coastal Cleanup Day in 2017. Most EPS foam take-out food containers cannot be recycled or composted and end up littering our beaches, breaking into smaller pieces, becoming a blight to beach-goers, a threat to wildlife, and costing local communities thousands of tax dollars each year.  According to a 2013 study, the City of San Diego and the City of Los Angeles spend $14 million and $36 million, respectively, in litter prevention and cleanup each year. Collectively California communities spend close to a half a billion dollars!

The second is AB 1884 or Plastic Straws Upon Request. This bill, authored by Assemblymember Ian Calderon, requires all full-service restaurants in California to offer plastic straws to customers only upon request. That means that when you sit down to eat at a restaurant in California, you’ll get a straw if you ask, but won’t get disposable plastic thrown in your water without your consent. Although this bill is not a comprehensive ban on plastic straws like San Francisco’s recent ordinance, it is a huge step in the right direction and will reduce the amount of plastic straw waste we send to the landfill each year, or that becomes littered on our streets, parks, and beaches. 

With the announcement earlier this year that China will no longer accept our plastic waste for recycling, we simply cannot continue to produce, consume, and throw away materials, especially ones like plastic that last for centuries. Evidently, Governor Brown agrees. In his signing statement, Governor Brown writes, “But one thing is clear, we must find ways to reduce and eventually eliminate single-use plastic products.” Surfrider Foundation has long been an advocate of reducing our plastic footprint, but there is only so much we can accomplish through personal behavior change like bringing our own cups and bags.  Through advocacy and legislation, we can enact laws that aim to reduce pollution at its source. These bills will help pave the way for source reduction around the state and help us kick the plastic habit once and for all. 

Thank you to everyone who signed our action alerts and expressed your support for these bills!