California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation to tackle the state’s plastic pollution issues following passage of the measure with broad support earlier this week.
The legislation, SB 54, requires producers to reduce single-use plastics packaging by at least 25%, by both weight and height, by 2032. It passed the state Assembly Wednesday with a 67-2 vote, followed by a 29-0 vote in the Senate on Thursday.
The measure requires 30% of covered materials be recycled or composted by 2028, 40% by 2030, and 65% by 2032.
“It’s an opportunity for California to be a leader, and there’s going to be a lot of other states are going to follow after this,” said Melissa Romero, senior legislative manager of California Environmental Voters. “A lot of other countries are going to be watching what California is doing on plastic pollution, because everybody’s struggling.”
The measure shifts the plastic pollution responsibility from consumers to the plastic industry and producers. It orders producers and plastics resin manufacturers to pay $500 million a year for 10 years starting in 2027 for environmental mitigation funds to address harms to disadvantaged, low-income, and rural communities, as well as other environmental recovery, restoration, and protection efforts.
“California won’t tolerate plastic waste that’s filling our waterways and making it harder to breathe,” Newsom (D) said in a statement after signing the bill on Thursday. “We’re holding polluters responsible and cutting plastics at the source.”
The lead author of SB 54, Sen. Ben Allen (D), introduced the bill four years ago, and in the final committee and floor votes this week, the legislation gained broad bipartisan support.
“We knew that we needed to act,” Allen said in a statement. “And in this time of extreme polarization in our nation, California was able to show that we can pass strong environmental legislation with bipartisan support that brought together the environmental and business communities.”
The Ocean Conservancy, a major supporter of the bill, estimates that the newly passed law will eliminate 23 million tons of plastics in the ocean in the next 10 years.
“It’s hard to capture how momentous this feels,” said Anja Brandon, a U.S. plastics policy analyst at Ocean Conservancy who worked on the bill. “The United States is the number-one generator of plastic waste in the world and a top contributor to the ocean plastics crisis. We can’t solve this problem without U.S. leadership, and by passing this law, California is righting the ship.”