The United States creates more plastic trash than any other country. Even with an abundance of disposable plastic, the U.S. manages to recycle just under 9 percent every year.
The new law, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, aims to accomplish several big things at once. Most significantly, it requires a 25 percent reduction of plastics in single-use products in California by 2032. The reduction can be achieved by shrinking the size of packaging and shifting to refillable containers or packaging made from other materials, such as recyclable paper or aluminum. Calculations have shown that those packaging reductions would eliminate nearly 23 million tons of single-use plastics over the next decade. Californians throw away about 4.5 million tons of plastics yearly.
The new law also requires 30 percent of plastic to be recycled by 2028, increasing to 65 percent by 2032. It further requires the industry to create a $5 billion fund over the next decade to help low-income communities impacted by the effects of plastic pollution.
Finally, it implements the practice, known as extended producer responsibility, (EPR) which has been in use in the European Union (EU) since the 1990s, and is credited with boosting higher recycling rates in western Europe to around 40 percent.
Federal legislation, will also include a provisional fee on production of virgin plastic used to make single-use plastics, which has previously been cheaper to use than recycled plastic.
California already leads the nation in regulating plastics, having banned bags statewide and expanded polystyrene in 128 cities. The new law is expected to prompt change in the plastics industry beyond Californian borders. Already, eight states have banned plastic shopping bags, five states have banned expanded food containers made of expanded polystyrene, or foam.