California’s new plastic bills explored

Recently, California Governor Gavin Newsom has been presented with various plastic-related bills, some signed and some vetoed. What are they and how will they benefit the environment?

Each proposal being approved would be an incredible improvement for California’s population as a whole. But what are some of these bills, and what do they entail?

SB 1046 Starting in 2025, plastic bags used for produce in grocery stores will be reusable, recyclable, or compostable. The bill passed with a vote of 32-8 on the senate floor in August, and Newsom signed it in late September. However, many Californians are skeptical. Will these bags end up in the wrong (trash) bin? Only time will tell.

AB 2784 Though not approved, this bill being passed would have changed all thermoform plastics to be partly made of recycled materials. This plastic is used to be a protective shell for foods, such as a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store, as well as cups and lids. By 2025, the bill proposed that 10% of it would be made using recycled plastics, and later 30% by 2030. If this was not obtained by the companies making thermoform plastics, a debt would have to be paid. However, various fruit companies who use thermoforms opposed this. According to the LA Times, the produce organizations say that the bill is “unnecessary considering the sweeping plastics legislation the state passed earlier this summer.” As a result, Newsom vetoed this bill. The Governor called the bill’s requirements “confusing” and said it could result in “duplicative fees and penalties for the same material.”

AB 351 Finally, starting in 2027, the dead will get a chance to leave the world better than when they found it. Modeled after Washington’s human body composting law, California cemeteries and crematoriums will adopt more environmentally-friendly methods. The process involves “placing human remains in a steel box with biodegradable materials, which help the body naturally decompose” (Pew Trusts). This is then turned into soil and given to family members, who can spread it or use it to grow plants. “I’ve always hated the thought that my final act on this world would be to either pollute the air or be pumped full of toxic chemicals and buried in a vault with a huge carbon footprint,” Nick Lapis, director of advocacy for Californians Against Waste, said.

With so many plastic-related bills being approved by the Governor, our state may have a chance to influence the rest of the country. “If any one of these bills had passed, it’d have been huge,” said Nick Lapis. “But all of these together? It’s incredible.”

Written by: Ella Moseley

Sources:

LA Times

Plastic Bags

Thermoforms

Human Composting

The trash-talk about recycling film

By: Ella Moseley

Plastic film is thin polyethylene plastic, most often used for packaging and bags, especially for retail use. A majority of plastic film waste contains the recycling symbol and is advertised to be “recyclable at store drop off locations.” Jan Dell, founder of The Last Beach Cleanup explains that this labeling confuses consumers and makes them think they can just put plastic film items in the provided bins. To make matters worse, oftentimes the recycle bins at these store drop offs are so contaminated with other garbage that they can not be recovered. 

Many companies are working to produce plastics that can be remade, but money is a big hurdle for them. Recycling old plastics and making them into new products is a much more expensive process than buying new plastic.

On July 19, CBS News correspondent Meg Oliver met with a New Jersey pilot program, “trying to help consumers get it right when it comes to plastic film.” On the first Wednesday of every month, six utility workers drive around Red Bank, New Jersey, in search of white buckets containing plastic film. They transport this plastic to a recovering facility, where it is sorted and bundled for the final steps of processing. The program was designed to help soft plastics, like bags and wrap (which can usually not be recycled), go to the correct place. However, in the segment, quite a few problems become apparent with the system. 

In the factory, there are many plastic bags mixed in with other paper and cardboard in the recycling piles. These plastic bags create a big problem for the workers because they get caught in the machines. According to the operations manager, Carlos Batista, “it can be very detrimental to the machines.” The system needs to be shut down for two hours every day because of this, and Batista says it can “cause fire or mechanical damage.” This is not the only problem. According to Jan Dell, “there is no evidence that this stuff is actually getting recycled.” After CBS’ visit to Red Bank, the plastic film collected was still waiting to be accepted by a processor. CBS’ Meg Oliver even mentions that she covered this same problem on the show three years ago, yet nothing has changed.

For now, the best solution for this problem is to put your plastic film waste in the trash, because putting it in the recycling can do more harm than good. 

“We have inconsistent guidelines, lack of consumer education, and really a confusing process where most consumers don’t know what goes in the bin.” – Joshua Baca with the American Chemistry Council

 

Sources:

CBS News

Letter to Governor and Attorney General

New York Times

Sustainable Princeton

 

More Information:

The Last Beach Cleanup

How California’s waste may be drastically lowered

As I walk around my neighborhood, local beaches, school, and other places in my town, I see hundreds of plastic and styrofoam products scattered on the ground. I think, who left this here? But more importantly, how might we fix this problem? This November, California may get a chance to reduce the litter we see all around us, as residents are fighting for the Recycling and Plastic Pollution act. The initiative means that all single-use plastics found in restaurants (foodware and packaging) must be reusable, refillable, recyclable or compostable by 2030, as well as single-use plastic production reduced by 25% in that same year. According to ABC7, the act would also prohibit stores from selling Styrofoam products such as “coolers, packing materials, cups, plates and pool toys, unless they are labeled as ‘durable material.’”

Though many are excited for this change, some small business owners are concerned about the extra costs affiliated with reusable goods, considering the toll Covid-19 has taken on many establishments. According to the LA Times, a representative of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association told the board that the initiative may reduce some waste, but it will more likely increase costs. The VICA says, “the cost of purchasing 100 compostable forks would pay for 1,000 plastic ones.” 

However, supervisors Janice Hahn and Hilda Solis are calling for Los Angeles County to begin a year-long education campaign, teaching the businesses about requirements and materials leading up to the implementation of the law. They want to start the motion “to make sure that we work with our businesses. We want to make sure they’re not overburdened and have what they need to comply with this,” says Hahn. 

California is not the first state to introduce this idea. In 2019, the island of Honolulu, Hawaii, banned all single-use food containers. Along with that, various states such as Oregon, Delaware, Connecticut, Maine, New York, and Vermont have banned plastic bags, and other states plan to do the same as well. 

So, what are the next steps? Vote for the future of California in November! As Democratic Senator Ben Allen said, “The truth is we just need less crap out there — less plastic out there in general.” 

Written by: Ella Moseley – California high school student

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan – Getty Images

Sources: 

ABC7

ABC10

LA Times

Urth Pact

Learn More:

The Initiative

Stop Plastic Pollution

 

This Earth Month we practiced self-love, because how can we adopt an abundance mindset if we don’t fill our own cup?

 

If we all used reusable cups and bottles for anything we drank, from coffee to water to beer, we could change the world! But we don’t. Why? Despite amazing advances in bioplastic technology, there is currently too much demand in our global throw-away culture to fight plastic pollution head-on. Consider the rise in shipping costs if EVERYBODY switched to glass or metal.

“It is not as simple as ‘plastic is bad’ so let’s use something else,” warns Eliot Whittington, policy program director at the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership. “It will require a complete change in the way we use product packaging at the moment. Most packaging is now used just once and thrown away. We need to move away from that. It needs some form of leadership from government.”

There are caveats, as with all new technologies, that prevent wide-scale adoption. Bioplastics and tetra-paks require special recycling plants, which are not available everywhere. They are generally more expensive to produce (a biodegradable forkmade from plant starch costs 3.5 times more than a basic white plastic one) and can often contaminate the traditional recycling process. Which is why it’s so important to continue to recycle right.

Delta Airlines, we know you can do better.

 

 

 

 

Despite countries pushing ahead with their conservation efforts, we can see that overfishing and habitat destruction faces an enforcement problem. By charging fishers for access to areas just outside the MPAs, enforcement could pay for itself. It’s what we do to protect the integrity of our waterways and national lands, why not the ocean as well?

If crafted correctly, the CFA could provide a perpetual budget for the enforcement of MPAs. Coupled with a new international funding mechanism like the Community Land Rights and Conservation Finance Initiative (CLARIFI), we could see MPAs fulfill their promise of being a superpower in the fight to conserve and heal our oceans.

We have severely altered two-thirds of the ocean, with only 2.8% of the ocean fully or highly protected from fishing. The problems we face start with our actions and flow elsewhere, not just downstream. Scientists have found major plastic pollution in the MPAs in the Mediterranean. Over half of the plastic found came from elsewhere.

If these big blue walls are breached, if these precious superhighways for marine life are exploited, everyone loses. Loss of biodiversity = lower productivity = lower economic performance. We know that MPAs work to various degrees, supercharging the health of ecosystems by allowing fish to mature, reversing the trend of shrinking sea life from fishery-induced evolution. If we can support indigenous communities in their effort to restore degraded MPAs, it will go a long way in maintaining the health of our oceans.

Tune into the Ocean Plastic Virtual Summit which is free to join and runs from Jan 25-26, you can sign up here.

OPLN will be holding a US-specific plastic treaty dialogue on Jan 27 from 12-2 eastern. Open invitation, no fees for participation.

Thank you to our ecosystem of partners for stepping up the past two years, keeping the Barrel Bag community connected and thriving.

 

We are ecstatic to share with you that our team and our partnerships have grown! We are also thrilled to join The Global Plastics Treaty Dialogue. While we strongly believe in the power of one, we know the fight against plastic pollution takes a united force for good. Here is to a fantastic start of the year, and a continued commitment to keeping our oceans healthy.

The world turns…and continues to throw away and burn single-use plastics. How do we inspire collective action and unity of purpose?

Since the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, the drive to ‘save’ the planet has only grown. We are grateful for the cultural shift in thinking, but now 60 years later, where do we go from here? The path ahead offers two distinct choices. Do we focus on change on a policy or individual level? Perhaps those two paths meet. We think so. We believe in the hard work of organizations like the Surfrider Foundation and politicians like Tom Udall and Alan Lowenthal and their efforts to codify sensible plastic pollution policy. We ALSO believe in the hard work of you, me, and the rest of our community.

That is why this month we are dedicating this bulletin to the Surfrider Foundation and the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act. If there is ONE click, ONE action you take for the environment ahead of Earth Day, then 📣SUPPORT📣THIS📣BILL📣Like right now before you are finished reading this😎take a minute or two to contact your representative. Shoutout to Beyond Plastics for a great breakdown of the BFFPPA.

“In January 2019, the Surfrider Foundation and University of California Los Angeles Law School Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment presented at two Congressional Briefings on Capitol Hill to discuss plastic pollution solutions. The presentations focused on their joint report on federal actions to address marine plastic pollution and set the stage for the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act.”
As important as it is to make changes at the policy level, we believe power comes from the people. We can all agree that single-use plastics suck. More often than not SUPs like household cleaners, grocery bags, and reusable food storage containers can be easily swapped out with minimal effort. Our community has switched to beeswax wraps instead of plastic wrap, reusable pail liners instead of garbage bags, and even ditched pesky detergent pods for the powdered variety.
Huge shout out to Grove Collaborative for bringing some of the best brands out there under one roof. Once again, power in numbers. Demand dictating production. Marketplaces like Grove (we are not affiliated, so this is not a sponsored plug) can hopefully incentivize both the boardroom and courtroom to act with environmental equity in mind.
     

Let’s keep fighting for a zero-waste future with the power of the people and policy.

   

Does the fight against plastic pollution include both collective and individual action? We believe both are critical.

If we all used reusable cups and bottles for anything we drank, from coffee to water to beer, we could change the world! But we don’t. Why? Despite amazing advances in bioplastic technology, there is currently too much demand in our global throw-away culture to fight plastic pollution head-on. Consider the rise in shipping costs if EVERYBODY switched to glass or metal.

“It is not as simple as ‘plastic is bad’ so let’s use something else,” warns Eliot Whittington, policy program director at the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership. “It will require a complete change in the way we use product packaging at the moment. Most packaging is now used just once and thrown away. We need to move away from that. It needs some form of leadership from government.”

There are caveats, as with all new technologies, that prevent wide-scale adoption. Bioplastics and tetra-paks require special recycling plants, which are not available everywhere. They are generally more expensive to produce (a biodegradable forkmade from plant starch costs 3.5 times more than a basic white plastic one) and can often contaminate the traditional recycling process. Which is why it’s so important to continue to recycle right.

Delta Airlines, we know you can do better.

So what does transformative change look like? Incremental steps and easily repeatable actions. Swap out plastic cups for compostable at your next party. Managing an event on campus? Choose bioplastics over traditional or even better, fully reusable. Create a ripple effect at home and in your community. San Francisco International Airport now offers hot, cold, and room temperature water at their hydration stations, and people love it. And here at Barrel Bag, we love the fact that both the shipping (!) and the airline industries see the value of cutting out single-use plastics.

Change is coming, dear readers. The government and mainstream media are beginning to take notice. “Here’s a chance for the Biden administration to do more to combat this crisis than all the local plastic bag bans in the country combined,” Emily Jeffers, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity and author of the petition, said in a statement.

This month, join us in celebrating these incredible NGOs who convinced French shipping line CMA CGM to end shipping plastic waste! Their victory is ours, help us show them some love. Here are all 52 organizations’ contacts.

Plastic Pollutes

Beyond Plastics

A Plastic Planet

Zero Waste Europe

GAIA U.S.

Green Knowledge Foundation

ESDO

Both Ends

TX Environment

CFET

Microplastic Research Group

Circular Economy

 

 

Biodiversity a Global Risk

Biodiversity a global economic risk

The World Economic Forum has listed the loss of biodiversity to be one of the top 10 global risks our planet faces.

CFAs vs non-CFAs

Courtesy: Hakai Magazine,Illustration by Mercedes Minck https://hakaimagazine.com/news/how-mpas-can-pay-for-their-own-protection/

Marine Protected Areas, or MPAs, are vast swathes of the ocean that when enforced correctly, act just like the U.S. national parks system. They protect biodiversity against overfishing and the destruction of habitats and ecosystems by ecotourism. MPAs are meant to protect against mega fishing and shipping industries, but can often hurt local populations, indigenous communities. Thankfully there may be a shift in thinking towards more inclusive solutions in the realm of marine conservation.

Nine organizations, including the Bezos Earth Fund, have pledged $5 billion over the next decade to “support the creation, expansion, management, and monitoring of protected and conserved areas of land, inland water, and sea, working with Indigenous Peoples…”

Four tiers of MPAs exist: Fully Protected, Less Protected, Designated, and Proposed. The Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor is the latest proposed MPA involving

Ecuador, Panama, Columbia, and Costa Rica. There are a fair number of MPAs around North and South America, with the most around Australia, and the least around the coast of Europe and England.

But a very small percentage of proposed or existing MPAs are fully enforced, rarely with the inclusion of local community leaders if at all. In fact, MPAs are the victim of their own success when fishers target the conservation areas for their rich biomass. New strategies, like the Conservation Finance Area proposed by UCSB scholars, could work. Ensuring local communities have a say in how MPAs are enforced will be critical to their success.

“We can use science to translate ancestral wisdom into a modern context, and highlight another path forward—one that is not only more effective but also addresses environmental justice issues for indigenous peoples,” says a biocultural ecologist at the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology.

MPA Map Marine-conservation.org

Image from: https://marine-conservation.org/us-seastates-2021/

Despite countries pushing ahead with their conservation efforts, we can see that overfishing and habitat destruction faces an enforcement problem. By charging fishers for access to areas just outside the MPAs, enforcement could pay for itself. It’s what we do to protect the integrity of our waterways and national lands, why not the ocean as well?

If crafted correctly, the CFA could provide a perpetual budget for the enforcement of MPAs. Coupled with a new international funding mechanism like the Community Land Rights and Conservation Finance Initiative (CLARIFI), we could see MPAs fulfill their promise of being a superpower in the fight to conserve and heal our oceans.

We have severely altered two-thirds of the ocean, with only 2.8% of the ocean fully or highly protected from fishing. The problems we face start with our actions and flow elsewhere, not just downstream. Scientists have found major plastic pollution in the MPAs in the Mediterranean. Over half of the plastic found came from elsewhere.

If these big blue walls are breached, if these precious superhighways for marine life are exploited, everyone loses. Loss of biodiversity = lower productivity = lower economic performance. We know that MPAs work to various degrees, supercharging the health of ecosystems by allowing fish to mature, reversing the trend of shrinking sea life from fishery-induced evolution. If we can support indigenous communities in their effort to restore degraded MPAs, it will go a long way in maintaining the health of our oceans.

Tune into the Ocean Plastic Virtual Summit which is free to join and runs from Jan 25-26, you can sign up here.

OPLN will be holding a US-specific plastic treaty dialogue on Jan 27 from 12-2 eastern. Open invitation, no fees for participation.

Thank you to our ecosystem of partners for stepping up the past two years, keeping the Barrel Bag community connected and thriving.

We are ecstatic to share with you that our team and our partnerships have grown! We are also thrilled to join The Global Plastics Treaty Dialogue. While we strongly believe in the power of one, we know the fight against plastic pollution takes a united force for good. Here is to a fantastic start of the year, and a continued commitment to keeping our oceans healthy.

Seagrass Ecological Superpower

Seagrass: An Ecological Superpower Fighting Plastic Pollution

The wonders of seagrass are only now just being realized, with new studies indicating that the restoration of seagrass habitats leads to the rapid recovery of coastal ecosystems.

One of the major modern-day tragedies currently happening right now is the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

But did you know that we are losing at least 7% of seagrass fields every year as well?

Scientists were thrilled to discover the natural microplastic collection and purging process that this critical ecosystem provides the ocean. These grasses have been enriching, protecting, and nurturing coastal communities since the dinosaurs. Their roots hold seafloor sediment in place, their leaves filter out polluting chemicals, even a single blade can provide sanctuary for communities of microscopic marine life. Seagrass meadows are even known to make a gentle sound underwater much like tiny bells. These sounds are believed to guide everything from larvae to sharks.

U.N. report estimates that while these powerhouses of the sea cover only about 0.1 percent of the ocean floor, they perform up to 18 percent of the ocean’s carbon sequestration.

Illustration of seagrass

Right now scarring from boat propellers, chemical runoff, and overfishing coupled with extreme weather all threaten to destroy entire meadows. The forgotten Serengettis of the sea threatens to collapse under the destructive weight of the microplastics settling down upon them.

But efforts in Florida, Virginia, Australia, and parts of Europe have proven that seagrass meadows can be reseeded successfully. Scientists around the planet have raised the alarm, increasing their efforts to map and monitor seagrass colonies all over the world.

“I’m pitching seagrasses as an ally in climate change. They are an incredible ecosystem that continues to provide a wealth of benefits to humanity,” says Jonathan Lefcheck, a research scientist at the Smithsonian’s Environmental Research Center.

Offset your carbon footprint and defend our coasts and oceans with Project Seagrass Grow.

Citizen scientists across the planet are pitching in by reporting seagrass locations with the smartphone app SeagrassSpotter.

Shoutout to amazing souls at The Inn at Manzanillo Bay in Troncones Beach, Mexico.

Picture of clean up Bag

We love it when inns, hotels, and resorts promote stewardship of the land they occupy. The coastal state of Guerrero is home to many beach villages whose main economy is the hospitality industry. It’s incredible to see small business owners align with our values, promoting clean beaches through individual action.

Keep up the good work Barrel Bag fam, we made it through another year. Let’s keep building on the momentum we’ve created.

Wishing you and yours peace and light for the rest of the year, and a fresh fighting spirit in the battle against single-use plastics in 2022.

Serious cash flow by burning plastic waste, claiming it as eco-friendly

Consumer goods and cement companies have come together to create serious cash flow by burning plastic waste, claiming it as eco-friendly.

Cement-makers and plastics goods manufacturers are heralding a new solution to solve our world’s problem of plastics. A “climate-neutral” solution that poses little to no threat to the environment and people. And what is that new solution, dear readers?

Plastic waste is skyrocketing and key cement players around the planet plan to quadruple or even quintuple their use of plastic waste in cement production. “It’s like moving the landfill from the ground to the sky,”, says Yobel Novian Putra, an advocate with the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, a coalition of groups working to eliminate waste.
Proponents say when the kilns burn hot enough, all toxic substances are incinerated. But accidents happen, like in Austria where a facility burned waste industrial waste only to taint a nearby dairy farm. Residents nearby had hexachlorobenzene in their blood, which can damage the nervous system, liver, and thyroid. HCB was released into the atmosphere because local regulators failed to ensure the kiln was running hot enough to destroy contaminants.
“The cement industry should leap-frog the whole burning-waste paradigm and move to clean fuel.” Lee Bell, advisor to the International Pollutants Elimination Network.

Maryland Elected Officials, ban burning single-use plastics and make plastic producers take responsibility.

Every year 1.5 billion toothpaste tubes are trashed worldwide – check out this article for some great alternatives.

Did you know 1,500 plastic water bottles end up in a landfill or in the ocean every second? No worries we’ve got you covered with another great list of alternatives you can swap out for plastic water bottles.

No significant climate benefit is to be gained from substituting plastic for coal, and that burning this waste in cement kilns can create harmful air pollution that must be monitored.

“Thinking that we recycle waste only, and that we should avoid plastic waste, then you can quote me on this: People believe in fairy tales,” Axel Pieters, chief executive of one of the world’s largest cement makers, and partner with Nestle, Unilever and Coca-Cola in plastic-fuel ventures.

There are over 3,000 cement kilns on the planet hungry for fuel. And with the production of plastics looking to continue to increase, there is nothing that can stop this trend. It would take collective action on a local and national level to 1. Begin to heal the damage caused by these plants and 2. Bring this issue into national focus. Right now the EPA’s last entry regarding cement kilns on their website is 2002 and for the Department of Justice, it’s 2014. Our leaders *know* the harm this practice can cause to the environment, to communities. One kid from Maryland decided he’s had enough.

Youth leader Carlos Sanchez from Lakeland High School in South Baltimore made a plea to residents and government leaders to join the cause and sign a petition calling for a halt to burning plastic. Show your support for his activism and for the people of Baltimore and join us in signing his petition!

Finally, we are thrilled to share with you our ongoing partnership with Heritage Conservancy. They preserve over 15,500 acres of open space, farmland, wildlife habitat, and important watershed areas in southeast Pennsylvania and foster environmental stewardship within their communities. By using Barrel Bag (and handing them out to volunteers) they have cleaned up trash and plastic waste in their community without adding trash bags to the waste.

Many people are completely unaware of this blitzkrieg to burn plastic waste, let’s make some noise.

Where Does Our Plastic Waste Go?

Many reports, including the one published in 2016 by the Ocean Conservancy and the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment, listed these top 5 countries as the most prominent plastic polluters: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Ironically, four out of five of these countries contribute the least to annual carbon emissions worldwide.

There are multiple reasons why these countries are coined to be the “biggest plastic polluters,” including the mishandling of plastic waste, inaccessibility to sustainable goods, or outcomes of consumerism and capitalism. Out of curiosity, I wonder why reports usually end up with these rankings. After investigating, I found out that there is a coin often unturned. The plastic waste found in these countries does not entirely belong to them.

HOW DID ALL OF THIS START?

Until 2018, China managed to buy recyclable plastic waste from many western countries like the US, Britain, and Germany, among many others, to transform these into new products sold back worldwide. However, the problems of contamination and pollution forced them to ban the importation of plastic waste. They declared they would no longer buy plastic waste that is not 99.5% clean or pure, leading to the US and other western countries scrambling to offload their trash elsewhere.

“Instead of taking responsibility for their waste, US companies are exploiting developing countries that lack the regulation to protect themselves,” said John Hocevar, Oceans campaign director for Greenpeace USA.

Many Western countries grew into the practice of dumping their waste on different soil. In a recent report by the Guardian in 2019, they discovered how US waste travels overseas and overwhelms the world’s poorest nations. They found that thousands of tons of US plastic are shipped annually to poorly regulated developing countries because of recycling’s labor-intensive process.

Last 2018, they discovered that the US exported 68,000 shipping containers of American plastic recycling to developing countries like Bangladesh, Laos, Ethiopia, and Senegal. These countries became a hotspot for US plastic recycling because of the cheap labor and limited environmental regulations. Aside from the US, the European Union is also a significant contributor to plastic waste.

Now, this poses a new question: Is recycling an effective way of combatting plastic pollution?