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Leila Monroe’s Blog

Marine Plastic Pollution Producer Responsibility Act Introduced by Assemblymembers Ben Hueso & Mark Stone

Leila Monroe

Posted February 21, 2013 in Environmental Justice, Living Sustainably, Reviving the World's Oceans, U.S. Law and Policy

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Experience and scientific study both reveal that plastic now pollutes the farthest reaches of the world’s oceans.  From the deep seabed of the Arctic, to once-pristine coasts – from the local riverside parks to distant islands – globally, we produce far more plastic waste than is recovered or recycled. 

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While this is a global problem, we can accomplish a lot with leadership and action at the State level.  We at NRDC are thrilled to be working with California Assemblymember Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), joined by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay), who have introduced the Marine Plastic Pollution Producer Responsibility Act.

A 2012 study by the Convention on Biological Diversity found that 663 marine species have been impacted by marine litter through entanglement and ingestion—a two-thirds increase in species from a similar study in 1998.  And a 2012 report found that California’s coastal communities are spending more than $418 million each and every year to combat litter and curtail marine debris.

This Act will create benefits not only for our oceans, but also for tax payers and local governments that currently pay millions of dollars every year to manage excessive plastic packaging that often pollutes our environment.  The bill also encourages industry to use their power of innovation by making design changes that can eliminate the problem in the first place. 

For decades, much of the effort toward solving the problem of “marine debris”–the general term for solid waste found in the ocean – has been in trying to educate people not to litter and to clean up the beaches.  But plastics production worldwide is increasing, and half of all plastic items are designed to be used once and then thrown away.  Our recycling infrastructure has not kept pace with the amount of disposable plastic packaging that is being produced, and this packaging often ends up as blight in the environment because it is lightweight, blows away, and is shipped all around the world to places where it is not being disposed of properly. 

Because 60-80% of marine plastic pollution comes from land sources, resulting from inadequate waste management and inappropriate disposal, NRDC is helping to tackle this problem by uniting the expertise of both our ocean and our waste management experts.  The goal of AB 521 is to require that producers of plastic take their fair share of responsibility for infrastructure -- such as recycling plants, full capture devices on stormdrains -- needed to properly recycle materials or prevent them from reaching the marine environment.   This will then incentivize business to make better products – durable, reusable and truly recyclable products – rather than the disposable polluting plastics that are now so ubiquitous. 

We are excited and very grateful to Assemblymembers Hueso and Stone for their leadership in launching a comprehensive solution to the problem of marine plastic pollution that threatens the California’s communities, economy, and environment.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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