Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series
Policy name: California SB-54 Solid waste: reporting, packaging, and plastic food service ware
Overview: Governor Gavin Newsom has passed a law that will begin phasing out single-use plastics in California.
Population: 40.0 million
Food policy category: Environmental health, climate change
Program goals: To reduce plastic pollution and mitigate climate change
How it works: The bill requires all packaging in California to be recyclable or compostable by 2032, cutting plastic packaging by 25 percent and requiring 65 percent of all single-use plastics to be recycled. On January 1, 2028, 30 percent of plastic packaging must be recycled, increasing to 40 percent in 2030, and 65 percent in 2032. These goals can be accomplished by reducing the size of plastic packaging, using refillable containers, and/or using packaging made of other recyclable materials such as paper or aluminum.
The bill places the burden on the plastics industry rather than the consumer by also requiring the industry to create a $5 billion fund to help low-income communities that are disproportionately affected by plastic pollution by 2032.
Progress to date: The bill was first introduced in December 2020. It passed in the Assembly on June 29, 2020, and in the Senate on the morning of June 30. Governor Newsom signed the bill into law later that same day.
Why it is important: Currently, only nine percent of the world’s 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste is recycled. The remaining 91 percent accumulates in landfills or litters the environment, and plastic takes more than 400 years to break down. Because single-use plastics are so lightweight, they are easily carried by the wind to litter the ground or end up in open water, causing harm to birds and marine life.
Plastic pollution results in soil contamination as well as the ingestion of plastic matter by marine life and livestock. Plastics then enter the food supply and are also consumed by humans, and/or they cause enough harm to marine life, livestock, and agriculture to deplete the overall food supply and increase food insecurity.
Program/Policy initiated: The bill was signed into law on June 30, 2022.
Point of contact:
Office of Governor Gavin Newsom
Phone: (916) 445-2841
Similar practices: While other cities and states have banned certain single-use plastics such as plastic bags or straws, California’s new law is the first to take plastics reduction a step further and place the onus on the plastics industry.
Evaluation: Evaluation has not yet been conducted.
- California Climate Commitment (Office of Governor Gavin Newsom)
- California Lawmakers OK Law to Phase Out Single-Use Plastics (Los Angeles Times)
- California Passes First Sweeping US Law to Reduce Single-Use Plastic (The Guardian)
- Plastics Ban Compromise Divides California Environmentalists (Los Angeles Times)
- Single-Use Plastic Waste is Getting Phased Out in California Under a Sweeping New Law (CNN)
- What to Know About California’s Landmark Plastics Law (New York Times)
- The World’s Plastic Pollution Crisis Explained (National Geographic)
- Assessment of Agricultural Plastics and their Sustainability A Call for Action (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)
- To Build Food Security, Reduce Plastic Use (International Food Policy Research Institute)
- California’s Sweeping New Plastics Law Could be a Game Changer (National Geographic)
- Deal Pulls California Plastic Trash Measure from Ballot (Cal Matters)
- Governor Newsom Signs Legislation Cutting Harmful Plastic Pollution to Protect Communities, Oceans and Animals (Office of Governor Gavin Newsom)
- A Running List of Cities, Restaurants, and Hotels That Have Banned Plastic Straws (Green Matters)
- SB-54 Solid Waste: Reporting, Packaging, and Plastic Food Service Ware. (2021-2022) (California Leglislative Information)
- State Plastic Bag Legislation (National Conference of State Legislatures)
- A Whopping 91 Percent of Plastic Isn’t Recycled (National Geographic)