If State’s Aren’t Paying Attention to California’s Landmark Plastic Pollution Policy, They Should


The recent passage of California Senate Bill 54 (SB 54) signifies a landmark bill for extended producer responsibility. It is a model that allows us to see, in real time, the benefits of supporting and investing in plastic waste solutions that invite collaboration across verticals and sectors. This leading piece of legislation creates a template for other states to learn from as they seek to reduce plastic waste in their communities. 

American Sustainable Business Network applauds the bold and necessary action taken by California Senator Ben Allen, Chair Luz Rivas of the Natural Resources Committee, California Governor Gavin Newsom and many others to address the plastic pollution crisis and advance policy solutions to reduce waste at the source. Under the new comprehensive bill, California will have ensured that, by 2032, 65 percent of single-use packaging will be recycled, reused or composted and an overall 25 percent drop in single-use plastic.

This legislative win was achieved, in part, due to the dedicated and persistent efforts of Tina Andolina from Senator Allen’s office, Heidi Sanborn, founding Director of the National Stewardship Action Council, ASBN and its businesses, along with dozens of the other participating California-based organizations and businesses who came together to support the final version of the bill presented to the legislature. 

“This is the bill I had hoped to pass during my career but knew it would be very hard and require an army moving in the same direction,” said Sanborn. “We just got the producers of packaging to agree to pay for a system that includes source reduction, reuse/refill, recycling targets while also having them fund $5 Billion of environmental remediation projects. This is a major win for California, the circular economy, and a world without plastic pollution.”

ASBN is proud to act as a conduit between sustainable businesses and policymakers to provide resources, support and community as we push for solutions-based legislation that supports a closed-loop system. As a multi-issue membership organization in partnership with the business and investor community that collectively represents over 250,000 businesses in every business sector, size, and geography across our networks, we seek to advance an equitable, regenerative, just and circular economy that benefits all⁠—people and planet. 

“SB 54 sets an important precedent to address the single use plastic issue creating a strong yet flexible policy that has input and buy-in from stakeholders all across the value chain,” said David Levine, President and Co-founder at ASBN. “Policies like SB 54 that have transparency and accountability built into its DNA will be key to maintaining trust and promoting continuous progress driving business innovation.”

In the month leading up to the ballot deadline, ASBN’s Circular Economy Working Group, which is comprised of business leaders and business associations from across the supply chain and the nation, drafted letters to Senator Allen and Chair Rivas expressing support for a modified SB 54 that created policy stability around plastic foodware and packaging as long as the bill continued to align with the group’s 5 Guiding Principles. After review, all of the recommendations put forward by the working group were incorporated into the final version of the bill. ASBN appreciates Senator Allen and Chair Rivas’ shared interest and commitment to tackle the plastic pollution crisis in California.

Going forward, ASBN will continue working on a state and federal level with policymakers, businesses and other stakeholders to find ways to guide transformative change in recycling systems, scale new and innovative circular business models and practices in packaging and reuse/refill, and to mitigate current and historical impacts on frontline communities and ecosystems. 

ASBN and members across the country celebrate this win and acknowledge the nation-leading efforts of California lawmakers.

“California has always been a leader in environmental stewardship and climate justice by passing policies that become models for the rest of the nation,” said Sasha Calder, Head of Impact at Geno. “Geno is proud to be headquartered in a state that has taken a stand to protect its 40 million residents and we appreciate the continued leadership of California lawmakers to protect public safety and the environment.”

The same day that Governor Newsom signed SB 54 into law, ASBN’s Director of Circular Economy, Stephanie Erwin also testified at the House Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change to discuss the national need for policies that can transform the recycling system and divest from single-use and virgin plastic particularly in food products and beverage containers. During the legislative hearing entitled, No Time to Waste: Solutions for America’s Broken Recycling System, Erwin urged the court to identify effective solutions and policy options that comprehensively address challenges at each stage in the product life cycle from R&D and design to extraction, production, distribution, use, and end-of-use or end-of-life.

“The use of plastic across the board comes with significant costs to the current and future economic well-being of large segments of US consumer markets, businesses, business supply chains, and the environment in a linear take-make-waste economy,” said Erwin. “Enacting policy action at the federal level will help shift the agenda towards more circular innovation and practices, which will contribute to the growth of a strong, vibrant and resilient economy.” 

It is critical that we take action to prevent further harm in our communities and ecosystems as a result of plastic pollution. Moving away from a plastic-driven economy is vital to the growth of a strong economy – and California can’t do it alone. States must not only address plastic pollution challenges within state lines, but advocate for federal measures to eliminate plastic waste. By advancing a model of shared responsibility, governments, producers, materials management providers, retailers, and consumers can all be part of the solution. 

Interested in attending a Circular Economy Working Group session, email Stephanie Erwin at stephanie@asbnetwork.org. To watch the full legislative hearing and Erwin’s testimony, visit the livestream on the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s YouTube channel.


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