The SB-54 Act, also known as the Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act, was recently passed in the state of California. The act aims to tackle the large and overwhelming plastic pollution issue. Residents of California have been consistent in their demand for better waste disposal solutions, and the SB-54 act hopes to fulfill those demands and create effective change.
The lengthy legislation has inevitably summoned chatter and curiosity about what the legislation will truly cover. We’re breaking down four myths and facts about the SB-54 act so you can distinguish fact from fiction as the policies begin to unfold.
Myth: Microplastics are a focus of the bill.
Fact: Microplastics are plastic fragments or fibers less than 5 millimeters in size. These small plastic pieces are generating concerns for water quality standards, human health, and animal welfare.
The SB-54 bill does not list microplastics anywhere in the legislation as a target group. However, the bill lists measures of plastic reduction at the source (producers and corporations), which may help to reduce microplastic contamination over time.
Myth: All plastic waste generated in California will still be exported outside of the country.
Fact: Prior to 2017, most plastic scrap was exported to China. In 2017, the Chinese government declared that they would no longer be accepting bulk plastic scrap materials, and would place strict criterias on what materials were acceptable. Since then, the United States recycling rate has plummeted from 9.5 percent as a high in 2014 back down to a mere 5 percent.
The SB-54 act aims to create better, more efficient plastic recycling and processing infrastructure in California and the United States. This would allow more plastic materials to remain domestically processed, creating a circular plastic economy.
Myth: SB-54 will increase taxes for California residents.
Fact: The bill will require plastic producers and large distribution companies to cover the costs of the criteria laid out in the legislation. The bill will create the Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) responsible for overseeing the changes required by the bill.
The PRO will require plastic producers to pay an annual 500 million dollars to cover labor, taxes, fees, infrastructure improvements, and other services as the policies from the bill begin to be implemented.
The goal of the bill is to transfer the responsibility of plastic pollution and its costs on to the producers and major corporations instead of residents. Thus, any costs associated with the clean-up of the plastic industry will be redirected to the producers.
Myth: This bill will solve the plastic pollution crisis, at least in California.
Fact: While SB-54 is a step in the right direction, it certainly is not the answer that will solve the global plastic pollution crisis. Niched bills to focus on microplastics, oceanic plastic pollution, and human health concerns on plastics warrant further legislative investigation