When you put a plastic bottle in your recycling bin, you assume that it gets recycled into a new bottle or other plastic product. Unfortunately, many plastic beverage bottles now pile up in warehouses, or worse, landfills. Why? Because there’s currently little demand for used plastic materials and overseas markets have stopped buying our waste. Last year, for example, China established their National Sword policy, which bans importation of mixed paper and certain types of plastic.
In California alone, 12 billion plastic bottles are sold every year. More than one quarter of these are not recycled at all. By one estimate, if we don’t do something, there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050. We must find ways to keep and recycle materials here in California.
That’s where my bill, Assembly Bill (AB) 792, comes in. It creates a market for used plastic by requiring CRV plastic bottle producers to use recycled materials. Starting in 2021, plastic bottles would be required to contain at least 15 percent recycled content; this would gradually rise to 25 percent in 2023, 35 percent in 2025, 50 percent in 2027 and 75 percent in 2030.
Our state has already established minimum recycled material requirements for other products, including glass containers, rigid plastic packaging containers, newsprint and trash bags. Additionally, many companies already are working to meet or exceed the requirements and timeline set by AB-792. For example, Nestle and Niagara water bottles are currently made up of almost 40 percent recycled material. Some companies have been going further or are on track to. Naked Juice Company has been using 100 percent post-consumer recycled content in its bottles since 2010 and all Evian water bottles will be made from 100 percent recycled plastic by 2025.
California should join the global effort on this issue. The European Union has already set a goal of 25 percent recycled content in plastic bottles by 2025 and 30 percent by 2030. Coca-Cola plans to use 50 percent recycled content in their plastic bottles by 2020 in the United Kingdom and 2025 in the European Union; however, the company doesn’t plan to reach that mark until 2030 here in the United States. My bill would speed up that timeline. California can lead the national conversation on our plastic use by passing AB-792.
AB-792 has already amassed a diverse array of supporters, from groups like Californians Against Waste, the Sierra Club and the Surfrider Foundation to Recology and the Association of California Recycling Industries. It is currently moving through the legislature, building momentum and passing key committees. I’m working to get it to the governor’s desk by the mid-September deadline so it can be signed into law in time for its first requirement to go into effect in 2021. I hope you will join me in supporting this common sense piece of legislation.
Phil Ting represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the west side of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma and Daly City.