Action #1: Tell your federal legislators to vote “YES” on the “Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act.”
It’s a shell game. A 50-year-long grift. Corporations who make or use plastic have been gaslighting America since that duplicitous “Crying Indian” commercial. States Sen. Merkley: “Many of us were taught the three R’s—reduce, reuse, and recycle — and figured that as long as we got our plastic items into those blue bins, we could keep our plastic use in check and protect our planet.” But only a scant 9% is actually recycled. “… the reality has become much more like the three B’s—plastic is buried, burned, or borne out to sea.” Or heaped into dystopian landscapes in third world nations, out of our sight, sickening people we don’t know.
The world’s top plastic polluters, including Coca Cola, Pepsi and Nestlé, have diverted our attention from the human and environmental havoc they’ve caused with shiny promises of incremental increases of recyclable materials, while actively sabotaging recycling systems and shifting the blame onto us with industry-supported “Keep America Beautiful“- style campaigns. (This one literally called us pigs.) (Video – “The Plastic Industry’s Long Fight to Blame Pollution on You“)
With our current system, there’s no way to recycle our way out of the mountain of plastic waste we use every day that’s killing our planet and “slowly but surely killing us.”
So, we’re going to have to make change happen another way. Corporations must be held accountable.
Minimal script: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Sen./Rep. [___] to support the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act.
More script if you want it: This bill would incorporate effective strategies other countries and states are already using to reduce their plastic pollution. Our corporations have refused to step up in a similarly meaningful way. It’s time that they were required to take responsibility for their mess.
- Rep. Julia Brownley: email, (CA-26): DC (202) 225-5811, Oxnard (805) 379-1779, T.O. (805) 379-1779
- or Rep. Salud Carbajal: email.(CA-24): DC (202) 225-3601, SB (805) 730-1710 SLO (805) 546-8348
- Senator Feinstein: email, DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
- and Senator Padilla: email, DC (202) 224-3553, LA (310) 231-4494, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 981-9369, SD (619) 239-3884
- Who is my representative/senator?: https://whoismyrepresentative.com
Plastic pollution, from production though disposal, is a full blown environmental and health crisis that affects us all but especially hurts communities of color and low-income communities. [footprint)(serc.carleton.edu)(plasticpollutioncoalition.org)(ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) ] Most Americans now believe that the industry should take responsibility: two-thirds believe that businesses that produce or use plastics in their products should pay for collecting, sorting, and recycling plastics; 86% support requiring new plastic to contain at least some recycled material; and 80% of Americans support phasing out certain non-recyclable plastics altogether.
The Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act is composed of globally tested strategies to both reduce the amount of disposable plastic, and encourage a shift toward better and reusable materials.
- Require big corporations to take responsibility for their pollution by requiring producers of plastic products to design, manage, and finance waste and recycling programs;
- Spur innovation, incentivizing big corporations to make reusable products and items that can actually be recycled;
- Create a nationwide beverage container refund program, modeled after the successful program pioneered in Oregon;
- Reduce and ban certain single-use plastic products that are not recyclable;
- Eliminate waste export loopholes by banning exports to countries who themselves re-export waste outside of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD);
- Require the National Academy of Science to study and assess the direct and cumulative health, environmental, and economic impacts of plastic waste incinerators and other similar technology;
- Establish minimum recycled content requirements for beverage containers, packaging, and food-service products, while standardizing recycling and composting labeling; and
- Generate massive investments in U.S. domestic recycling and composting infrastructure, while pressing pause on new plastic facilities until critical environment and health protections are put in place.
Action #2: Tell your state legislators to vote “YES” on SB 54 – the Plastic Pollution Producer Responsibility Act and other anti-plastic pollution bills.
State Senators: SB 54 – Plastic Pollution Producer Responsibility Act. This bill phases out the sale and distribution of single-use plastics by 2030, similar to part #4 of the federal bill above. On April 26, it will be heard in the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. (Agenda here.)
- If you know people in the districts of the committee members listed in the graphic below, reach out and ask them to call.
- If your legislators are Senators Allen, Stern, Becker, Gonzales and Wiener, and Asm. Lorena Gonzalez, Muratsuchi, Boerner Horvath, Carrillo, Kamlager, Luz Rivas and Ting, call and thank them for this bill.
Our Senator Monique Limón and other legislators who are not members of this committee still need to hear that this bill is important to us.
Minimal script: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Sen. [___] to vote “YES” on SB 54 when it reaches the Senate floor, and all other bills that reduce toxic plastic pollution.
- These bills has passed the Asm Natural Resources Committee and are being re-referred to Appropriations. Are these your people?
- AB 478 (Ting) Solid waste: thermoform plastic containers: postconsumer recycled plastic.
- AB 1201 (Ting) Bans the sale of plastic products that are labeled “compostable” unless it meets specified standards and criteria (Hearing today)
- AB 1311 (Wood) Recycling: beverage containers: certified recycling centers
- Will be heard in the Natural Resources Committee on April 28. Are these your people?
Our Asm. Steve Bennett and other legislators who are not members of this committee still need to hear that these bills are important to us.
Minimal script: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Asm. [___] to vote “YES” on the following bills: [speak slowly] AB 478, 1201, 1311, 1371, 1454, and 962 and all other bills that meaningfully reduce toxic plastic pollution.
State Senator Monique Limón (SD-19): SAC (916) 651-4019, SB (805) 965-0862, OX (805)988-1940 email
State Assemblymember Steve Bennett (CA-37): SAC (916) 319-2037, SB (805) 564-1649, VTA (805) 641-3700 email
Not your people?: findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov.
Action #3: Find at least one plastic or recycling habit you can change.
- Recycle MORE things.
- These programs are free, national recycling solutions for typically hard-to-recycle waste streams – like toothpaste tubes. Join as many programs as you like to help reduce your impact on our planet.
- Support systemic change makers.
- Stop supporting plastic backers – use credit unions or co-ops.
- A new report from Portfolio Earth, an organization exposing the finance industry’s role in bankrolling the destruction of our natural world, states that “between January 2015 and September 2019, banks provided loans and underwriting of more than USD 1.7 trillion to forty key plastic supply chain actors.” These banks also are the biggest financiers of the fossil fuel industry, the plastic industry’s twin, as plastic comes from oil.
- Start small.
- (1millionwomen) Reusable cup: Get your morning brew in a reusable cup instead of the disposable takeaway cups.
- Reusable straw: Bring your own reusable straw.
- Reusable cutlery: Pack some cutlery from home or invest in a reusable cutlery pack perfect for the handbag.
- Reusable bottle: Save some money and precious earth resources by bringing your own drink bottle and filling it up with water from the tap.
- Reusable bag: Pack a reusable bag with you each day so you never have to say yes to plastic bags again. You can keep one or two in your car for any unexpected shopping trips. Plastic bag bans work. (video)
- Change how you do drink.
- Bottled soda fans get a sparkling water maker with reusable gas cylinders and bottles and save buying and disposing of literally hundreds of bottles from the store every year. Try zerowastechef.com‘s ginger beer, naturally carbonated lemonade or hibiscus soda. Or brew some kombucha. These drinks taste amazing, they cost little to make and, because you bottle them in glass, they won’t come into contact with plastic packaging that can contain toxic chemicals.
- Change how you do food.
- Buy Local: You’re supporting local economy, you’ll be eating seasonally, and you cut down on the food miles you consume.
- Buy bulk: Shop at a bulk food store to avoid plastic packaging and save some time and money.
- Compost or freeze food waste: Composting is a great way to reuse your food waste as nutrition for your garden, you can also freeze your off cuts from fruit and veggies and use them in soups and broths.
- Naked bin: Let your bin go nude (no plastic bag bin liner) or line it with newspaper.
- BYO jar or container: Grabbing lunch on the go? Take a container or jar with you instead of using the plastic takeaway containers.
- Use beeswax wraps: Reusable beeswax wraps can be used to replace clingwrap.
- Choose glass over plastic: If you have the choice between plastic packaging or glass, choose glass. You can reuse the glass jar or container over and over and then recycle it at the end of its life. Single-use plastic packaging is designed to be used once and thrown away. Not a good option for our environment.
- Grow your own food: Test out your green thumb and start your own veggie patch. Begin by planting some herbs and build your garden from there.You might like to try a lemon tree from seed, micro-greens, or native lemon myrtle
- Change how you clean – your home and yourself.
- Start making your own cleaning products: An awesome way to reduce harmful cleaners in your home and avoid the plastic packaging. Try our DIY dishwashing detergent or laundry detergent.
- Make your own beauty products: Another great way to avoid harmful toxins being absorbed into your body and you can sleep tight knowing you aren’t pouring microbeads down the drain. Many of the beauty products I make I store in old glass jars. Check out our recipe for coffee cacao scrub.
- Too easy? You can try a trash-free lifestyle…
What are other people doing about this? Is America behind the curve?
Yes. Whole countries, big cities and small towns are already actively engaged in the war against waste. We as a country, and CA as a state, are late to this game but that means we have a lot of examples to study. Sweden, incinerates nearly 100% of their waste, including plastics, to create energy. In face, they are now importers of other people’s trash.
Kamikatsu, a small rural town in Japan, became a top recycler when they couldn’t afford a new incinerator and desperately needed new options. They ended up founding the Zero Waste Academy.
An exponentially larger place, like San Francisco, is already diverting 80% of its waste with their “Zero Waste” initiative. Their Instagram site #zerowasteexistence is documenting the creation of new business opportunities.
Trader Joe’s has started, other grocery stores can do this too.
Since 89% of our problem is with single-use food packaging, we should spend a moment here. Trader Joe’s has already replaced plastic produce bags with biodegradable and compostable options and switched out styrofoam trays with compostable versions. They are planning on phasing in offering more loose items, instead of prepacked in plastic, and eliminating plastic sleeves on greeting cards and wrappers on flower bouquets, replacing them with renewable material.
In his article on how grocery’s can adjust help us adjust to this new reality, Ken Lonyai put together a list. (we’ve added some links that show products or companies for illustration, no endorsements of any kind are implied)
- Eliminate all non-plant-based plastics from private labels
- Incentivize shoppers to buy products with “green” packaging, such as a “Plastic-Free Shopping Club” or app (one example)(another example)
- Create a plastic-free aisle or store-in-store like Dutch supermarket Ekoplaza; (not without criticism)
- Create a sustainable aisle or store-in-store like Brooklyn start-up Package Free;
- Replace bottled water with reusable bottles and offer free filtered water refills. The mathematics of how much money we’d save is actually really interesting.
- Mandate that product manufacturers remove single-use plastics from packaging by a certain date or face removal from shelves;
- Offer products in bulk utilizing shoppers’ own containers like German grocer Original Unverpackt—it was once that way in the US;
- (intercept) Leaked audio reveals how Coca-Cola undermines plastic recycling efforts
- (CocaCola) World Without Waste
- (Motherjones) Surprise! These 15 Common Grocery Store Items Are Almost Never Recyclable
- (dezeen) Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Nestlé named world’s worst plastic polluters for third year running
- (dezeen) Plastic recycling is “bullshit” says Richard Hutten at Dezeen Day
- (zerowastechef.com) Why I’m not Excited About Coca-Cola’s 100% Recycled Bottle
- (guardian) Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Nestlé named top plastic polluters for third year in a row: Companies accused of “zero progress” on reducing plastic waste, with Coca-Cola ranked No 1 for most littered products
- (foodprint) the FoodPrint of Food Packaging
- (ChicagoTribune) The ‘Crying Indian’ ad that fooled the environmental movement
Image: (Guardian) Burning question: plastic pollution scars poorest countries – in pictures