Recently environmental groups joined Senator Ben Allen and Assemblymember Richard Bloom to help reduce plastic pollution by urging passage of key ocean protection bills moving through the State Legislature.

SB 1335 (Allen) would ensure that food packaging used on state facilities, like our state beaches, is able to be recycled and AB 1884 (Calderon/ Bloom) would make California the first state in the country to require ‘straws on request’. Both bills will be heard in the final weeks of the legislative session in Sacramento that ends August 31, 2018.

Polystyrene — what many of us call ‘Styrofoam’ — is one of the worst forms of plastic pollution, often used in cups and take-out food containers. Every day, Americans use and throw away more than 70 million plastic cups, which all together ends up being more than 800 tons of waste. About one third of this discarded plastic pollution ends up in our waterways, and takes more than 400 years to biodegrade.

The massive accumulation of plastic is perhaps best exemplified by the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ in the Pacific Ocean.

“We simply can’t continue to produce and throw away plastic at this rate,” said Dan Jacobson, State Director with Environment California. “It’s time to put our wildlife over waste and ban single-use polystyrene plastic and reduce single-use straws, we urge our elected officials to take action and lead the way on this issue.”

Once polystyrene enters waterways, it is easily-ingested by ocean wildlife. Scientists have found plastic fragments in literally hundreds of species, including 86 percent of all sea turtle species and nearly half of all seabird and marine mammal species. In April, a whale died and washed up on a beach in Spain due to the more than 66 pounds of plastic in its digestive system.

“Plastics are made from fossil fuels – current projections show a potential 40% increase in plastic production in the next 10 years, to the tune of roughly 180 billion dollars in new extraction facilities. If we don’t hold corporations accountable and stop these frightening trends, the threats to our oceans and our communities from plastic pollution will increase exponentially,” said Anna Cummins from 5 Gyres.

Plastics also pose risks to human health, attracting harmful chemicals including carcinogens, neurotoxins, and endocrine disruptors, which humans can ingest by eating seafood and by coming into contact with everyday plastic packaging.

“With the United States estimated to generate some 41 million tons of plastic waste by 2030 and the looming crisis brought about by Chinese import restrictions on recyclable materials, the need to reduce the amount of single-use plastic waste that is piling up in our landfills, polluting our communities, and choking our waterways has never been more pressing. SB 1335 and AB 1884 are two timely, sensible, and urgent statewide measures that will help us address these issues and protect our ocean, beaches, parks, and communities from the harmful impacts of single-use plastic waste,” said Craig Cadwallader, Surfrider South Bay.

“Heal the Bay strongly supports sustainable packaging policies in California. Single-use plastic pollution is a huge challenge in our region. In the last 18 years, Heal the Bay volunteers have removed over 736,000 pieces of plastic foam trash from L.A. beaches. The harmful flow of single-use plastic foam is a constant threat to marine animals, wildlife and habitats. And this pollution problem is only growing. Of the more than 375,000 tons of polystyrene (plastic foam) produced in California each year, not even 1% gets recycled. The rest ends up in our landfills,

waterways and the ocean. We need to stop the flow of plastic foam in our region with a city-wide polystyrene ban,” said Mary Luna, Coastal and Marine Scientist for Heal The Bay.

“With the United States estimated to generate some 41 million tons of plastic waste by 2030 and the looming crisis brought about by Chinese import restrictions on recyclable materials, the need to reduce the amount of single-use plastic waste that is piling up in our landfills, polluting our communities, and choking our waterways has never been more pressing. SB 1335 and AB 1884 are two timely, sensible, and urgent statewide measures that will help us address these issues and protect our ocean, beaches, parks, and communities from the harmful impacts of single-use plastic waste,” said Cadwallader.

Submitted by Sophie Haddad, Environment California