California loves to pride itself on being a leader of environmental consciousness but if this state desires to continue to boast this title, it must drastically change the way it perceives and handles waste.
Even with seemingly progressive legislation deterring the usage of plastic bags and straws, California has barely scratched the surface of what it needs to do to combat its ever-growing environmental issues.
This state will have to tackle the issue of waste management head-on, especially at such a critical time, since China has refused to accept the United States’’ waste as of 2018.
In 2016, China collected 16 million tons of United States waste products to be processed and recycled, according to Science X, a research news website. As of 2018, China enforced that National Sword, China’s customs inspection program, deny countries from sending most plastics and waste products to their recycling processors. This policy has given the responsibility of recycling to the countries that produce the most waste.
Recycling centers have been shutting down at a rapid rate, as they cannot keep up with the sheer quantity of
waste products and recyclables
that their country uses. The material that is produced in recycling centers is far more expensive than virgin material, which mainly takes the form of newly produced plastics.
Due to the lack of resources and dwindling market, many of the remaining processing plants have to find alternate ways to deal with the overload of waste products. A majority of plants have had to put perfectly recyclable products in landfills or refuse to take them at all.
Even though California is only a state, it still holds a lot of responsibility in being a leader in changing the broken recycling system and its infrastructure. California’s economy is larger than any other U.S. state, and is considered to be the fifth largest in the world, according to Forbes.
This state’s waste impacts the land and economy beyond its borders, both nationally and globally. California can lead the country in efforts to consume more environmentally-friendly products and reduce the amount of waste it produces, creating a guide of which other places can follow.
Laws restricting the use of plastic bags and straws were only passed because they placed the responsibility of recycling and use of plastics on American consumers, not on the companies that produce literal tons of single-use plastics.
Californians need to push the state government to follow through on its promises to regulate the production of single-use plastics and revive the recycling industry.
All of this depends heavily on new legislation and how congressmen plan on implementing laws that will limit the number of single-use plastics that companies produce and sell.
There are three bills that could become law in the near future.
Assembly Bill 792 is one of the most imposing, as its main goal is to prohibit the sale of beverage containers that are not made of recycled plastic. This piece of legislation would give companies a phased-in recycled plastics mandates where every four or five years, the number of required recycled plastics in beverage containers would increase by 25%.
The legislation’s main goal would be to have all plastic beverage containers completely made of recycled materials by the year 2030.
This measure is considered to be far-reaching. Companies don’t want to be held responsible for the manufacturing of recycled plastics and think the phases in the timeline cannot be realistically achieved.
These companies do have a point, however, that should not give them an excuse for neglecting responsibility for the mountains of garbage that inevitably end up in landfills across the United States and in surrounding oceans.
The other two pieces of legislation, Senate Bill 54 and Assembly Bill 1080, would start the state on a path to eliminate single-use plastics, like utensils and wrappers, and increase the production of recyclable and compostable products.
After 2030, all single-use plastics would be required to be recyclable.
These bills are by far the most radical in the nation, and will consequently face backlash on all fronts. But Californians owe the country and its citizens a solution to plastic pollution.
This state has continued to be an example for the rest of the country, and if the legislation dies, it will set a precedent to stick with the status quo.
Unfortunately, individuals do not have the power or resources necessary to significantly reduce the amount of plastic pollution created. If the government keeps placing all the responsibility on individuals, no progress will be made. That is why it’s so important that the state passes this legislation, so citizens wouldn’t have to take on this daunting task alone. California must be unified in its efforts to reduce the amount of plastic it creates and consumes.
Ultimately, the state and all of its companies and citizens need to be held responsible for the environmental catastrophe. Change must happen now.