Chesbro introduces bill to fight spread of toxic ocean garbage

Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro

Chair, Environmental Safety & Toxic Materials Committee

Chair, Assembly Select Committee on Disabilities


March 1, 2010

CONTACT: Bob Fredenburg, (916) 319-3965

Chesbro introduces bill to fight spread of toxic ocean garbage: Legislation targets non-recyclable harmful plastic and fast food containers

SACRAMENTO – First District Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro (D-North Coast) has introduced a bill to create “The Plastic Ocean Pollution Reduction, Recycling and Composting Act.” AB 2138 would require the fast food industry to reduce and recycle packaging waste and litter by requiring the use of packaging that is recyclable or compostable in the communities where it is used.

“Plastic ocean pollution is a persistent and growing problem,” Chesbro said. “Despite international treaties prohibiting dumping plastics at sea and other international, national, state and local action, trash in the ocean is increasing. Trash that washes into our waterways and bays poses a real and pressing threat to marine life. California must take on a leadership role in protecting our oceans.”

Chesbro, who chairs the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee, recently held an investigative hearing on ocean pollution and the accumulation of toxic materials in California Coastal waters. The testimony given at the hearing is the foundation of the “The Plastic Ocean Pollution Reduction, Recycling and Composting Act.”

Single-use food packaging litter kills wildlife such as birds and endangered sea turtles, which become entangled in it or mistake it for food and try to ingest it. More than a million sea birds, 100,000 marine mammals and countless fish have died from marine debris.

Single-use food packaging that isn’t recycled costs California families hundreds of dollars annually in hidden litter clean-up costs. Local governments are especially hard hit by these costs. The City of Los Angeles estimates that compliance with Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for its impaired waterways, including those for litter pollution, will cost more than $1 billion. Plastic pollution severely threatens California’s $43 billion ocean economy.

“The volume of unrecyclable single-use food packaging distributed annually in California is staggering,” Chesbro said. “The fast-food industry alone generates four million tons of waste annually in California and retailers are currently distributing almost fourteen billion plastic bags annually. AB 2138 would prohibit restaurants and other food providers from distributing single-use food packaging and bags unless they are accepted for either recycling or composting from at least seventy five percent of households in a jurisdiction and are recovered at rate of at least twenty five percent.”

This policy will make the fast-food industry financially responsible for:

  • Switching to packaging that is compatible with the recycling and/or composting services available in the communities they serve.
  • Working with local governments and recyclers to increase processing and market capacity for recyclable and compostable packaging alternatives.
  • Working with consumers to ensure that their packaging is recycled or composted.

“This legislation would reduce the cost to local governments for cleaning up the tons of plastic waste that is entering our waterways and polluting our beaches and the ocean,” Chesbro said. “This bill will build a recycling infrastructure that will both protect the environment and create new green jobs in California. We can lead the nation and leave a cleaner and safer ocean for the next generation.”


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