Who Killed Recycling in California This Year?
This certainly hasn’t been the most productive year for the California State Legislature.
Tied up in a state budget battle that has set a record for lateness, the legislature failed to address many other important public policy issues this year. And one important policy area it failed to address was waste reduction and recycling.
At the end of August, the legislature was on the verge of passing three historic CAW-sponsored bills that had already passed key votes in the Senate or Assembly. But the legislature, caught up in beyond-last-minute budget paralysis, failed to take the bills up for a final vote.
Those bills would have broken new ground in our efforts to make California the world leader in waste reduction and recycling:
• Senate Bill 1625 would have expanded the Bottle Bill, which now covers only beverage containers, to also include a refund value on ALL plastic bottles. This would have been the first time that any state has expanded a Bottle Bill to include more than beverage containers. California would recycle at least 3 BILLION more plastic bottles every year under this proposal.
• Assembly Bill 2769 would have put a 25 cent fee on every disposable plastic or paper bag distributed at large grocery stores and pharmacies. About 80 percent of bags given out in grocery stores are plastic. Grocery and drug stores hand out 5 BILLION of those plastic bags in California every year. Producing one plastic bag consumes as much energy as running a 100-watt light bulb for one to two hours. Putting a fee on the bags has reduced plastic bag consumption in Ireland by more than 90%, as most people now bring their own reusable bags to the store. The proceeds from the 25 cent fee would have been used to institute the toughest-in-the-nation litter clean-up law for carryout bags.
• Senate Bill 1020 would have required cities and counties to keep at least 75% of their wastes out of landfills by the year 2020. CAW led the campaign for the successful Solid Waste Recycling Act in 1989, which required 50% waste diversion by 2000 -- a goal that was ultimately met. This not only reduced waste, but also saved taxpayers many millions of dollars in disposal costs. It’s time to reduce waste and increase recycling even more!
These new policies would have truly been key components of our recycling revolution in California.
CAW will be back in the new year with renewed efforts to convince the legislature to act to expand the Bottle Bill, put a 25 cent fee on disposable bags and create a 75% waste reduction law.
Mark Murray is the Executive Director of the environmental group Californians Against Waste (CAW). He lobbies for CAW and is recognized as one of the environmental communities leading experts on waste prevention and recycling policies. CAW has been actively involved in the development, negotiation and passage of virtually every piece of waste reduction and recycling legislation enacted in California.