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Marine Plastic Pollution Producer Responsibility Bill Passes California Assembly Natural Resources Committee

Leila Monroe

Posted April 30, 2013

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Late yesterday, after a marathon hearing of the California Assembly Natural Resource Committee, Assembly Bill 521, known as the Marine Plastic Pollution Producer Responsibility Act, received enough “aye” votes – from committee members Chesbro, Muratsuchi, Stone, Skinner and Williams – to pass to the next stage of its legislative life cycle: the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

AB 521, authored by Assembly Member Mark Stone with Senator Ben Hueso, would significantly benefit our oceans, coasts and our communities. The proposed bill would make producers of plastic products (particularly single-use packaging) do their fair share to keep plastic out of our oceans, rivers, and lakes.  It would encourage industry to make smarter, less polluting products and would save taxpayers and local governments’ money by reducing waste management, litter cleanup and recycling costs.

The bill has already attracted an impressive list of supporters, led by NRDC, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and thirty other organizations, local governments and businesses. Even Republican Assembly Member Frank Bigelow and industry representatives provided thoughtful review of the approach, though they didn’t quite offer their support.

As I have blogged before, the plastic that pollutes our oceans and waterways has severe impacts on our environment and our economy.  From the peer-reviewed scientific literature, we know that seabirds, whales, sea turtles and other marine life are eating marine plastic pollution and dying from choking, intestinal blockage and starvation.  Scientists are investigating the long-term impacts of toxic pollutants absorbed, transported, and consumed by fish and other marine life, including the potential effects on human health.

This pollution also causes substantial costs to taxpayers and local governments that must clean this trash off of beaches and streets to protect public health, prevent flooding from trash-blocked storm drains, and avoid lost tourism revenue from filthy beaches. Anyone who’s enjoyed a riverside park or a beach in this state has probably experienced the blight of plastic trash.  Given that California’s tourism and leisure industry generated $92 billion in GDP for the state in 2010, we can’t afford to let this problem go unaddressed.  A 2012 report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found California’s coastal cities and counties spend about $420 million each year to combat litter and curtail marine debris.  

AB 521 would require California to adopt a statewide goal of reducing marine plastic pollution by 75 percent [IS1] by 2020 and by 95 percent by 2025. The bill would direct CalRecycle, in coordination with the California Ocean Protection Council and the State Water Board, to establish a program that would require producers of plastic pollution to meet these targets within established timeframes. Agencies offer guidance on what activities -- such as improved product design and support for increased recycling -- can be included in the plans. But rather than establishing a new layer of bureaucracy, producers have flexibility to determine the methods that work best for them to achieve the established targets.

We’ll need your support as AB 521 moves through the legislature, so please stay tuned for updates on opportunities on how you can get involved in this exciting, ground breaking solution.

Sadness Beach Trash by Michael Dorausch on Flickr

Sadness Beach Trash by Michael Dorausch, "planetc1" on Flickr: "October 2010, miles of trash washed onto the shores of Marina del Rey and Venice Beach California, it's a sad reminder of our consumption of plastics in the United States."

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Katie McGrathApr 30 2013 09:02 PM

It's a beginning .... to the end of plastics on this earth! Good work everyone.

Katy PyeMay 2 2013 11:27 AM

Go California! Other states with plastic manufacturing plants (TX) aren't so lucky. Thanks for posting this and to NRDC for making this issue a priority. My new, YA novel, Elizabeth's Landing, includes plastic impacts on sea turtles. Maybe coming at this from all sides will increase pressure on legislators and change public behavior.

Mari Lynch - Bicycling MontereyMay 4 2013 12:55 PM

We are pleased that our Assembly Member Mark Stone has authored AB 521. Bicycling Monterey is pleased to join the City of Monterey, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Save Our Shores, and many, many others from the Monterey Bay region in supporting it.

We've added a link to this post in our notes on plastic in "Bike to a Monterey County Beach--and Care for What You Love" at

Thank you!

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