California Plastic Ocean Debris Bill Dies in Committee

Byline: Associated Press

SACRAMENTO (AP) — A California bill that would have required manufacturers to figure out how to keep the most common plastic junk out of state waterways died in the California Assembly without a vote May 24.

Assembly Bill 521 was before the chamber’s Appropriations Committee, and the panel failed to act on it, effectively killing the legislation for the session. It had previously passed the Assembly Natural Resource Committee.

State Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Monterey Bay, one of the proposal’s sponsors, said he was disappointed by the outcome.

Once in the ocean, plastic takes ages to decompose. The manmade junk either collects into floating trash islands called “garbage patches” or it breaks into smaller pieces that harm and kill sea creatures throughout the food chain.

AB 521 would have required manufacturers to figure out how to reduce 95 percent of plastic pollution along the state’s coastline by 2024. It carried financial penalties for companies that did not comply: up to $10,000 per day for the worst violations.

Assemblyman Eric Linder, R-Corona, said during a May 24 Appropriations Committee meeting that he opposed the measure in part because it singled out one industry as the source of ocean pollution.

“I agree that cleaning up our oceans should be something that’s very, very important to us, but this bill places the burden of compliance directly on the producers instead of the violators, the people who are littering,” Linder said.

The plastic industry, California Chamber of Commerce and other business interests opposed the bill, saying they already fund recycling and other programs to reduce marine plastic pollution. Plus, they said, the bill asked manufacturers to develop new products or other ways to reduce trash, but it didn’t say how.

Extended producer responsibility laws have already taken root in more than two dozen European countries.

In France, nearly 90 percent of consumer products are part of the “Green Dot” program, requiring manufacturers to pay into a program that recovers and recycles packaging materials. It has successfully influenced manufacturers there to cut down on packaging or use alternative materials.

Stone’s office said the assemblyman is unsure if he will reintroduce the bill next year. He is “weighing his options for how to continue to work to address this problem in the future,” Smith said.

— Jason Dearen (Laura Olson also contributed to this story, from Sacramento.)

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