California’s feel-good war on inexpensive, useful and convenient products continues.

State lawmakers have already passed legislation to restrict the availability of plastic grocery bags and plastic straws, and now two companion bills have been introduced by state Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, that would require complex and ever-tightening state regulations over all single-use plastics.

SB54 and AB1080 would require single-use packaging and products to be reusable, fully recyclable or compostable, and it would establish a plan to “reduce and recycle” or otherwise divert from landfills 75 percent of single-use plastics by 2030. In 2017, 44 percent of all solid waste in the state was diverted from landfills. According to Allen, less than 15 percent of single-use plastic in California is recycled. However, recycling has its own problems, specifically what another bill, SB33 by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, calls “the collapse of foreign recycling markets.” Her bill would set up requirements that would create a domestic market for recyclables.

Translated, this means recycling doesn’t pay for itself any longer, so Californians will be forced to pay for it through higher prices, fees and taxes.

For California businesses, complex regulations governing the composition and disposal of plastic materials will create one more state mandate enforced with fines and penalties. As always, big businesses will be better able to absorb the costs and compliance burdens, while small businesses suffer. The demonization of single-use plastics, which enable the safe transportation and distribution of countless products and food items, is driven by activists who point to plastic waste floating between Hawaii and California.

However, a study last year by the Netherlands-based Ocean Cleanup Foundation found that an unexpectedly high proportion of the mass, 92 percent, was made up of larger objects, not small fragments as previously believed. The researchers said 46 percent of the debris was fishing gear, including plastic nets.

California consumers are not the cause of the garbage patch, and harassing them over straws and plastic forks is not going to clean up the ocean. Then what’s the purpose? That’s a good question.


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