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Battling Plastic Pollution: Rethink Cleanup Investments

Updated: Apr 9

Posted on 29 March 2024

By Hoiyin Ip, Al Sattler and Bill Lane

Sierra Club - Los Angeles Chapter

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'The rainstorms continue to turn the ocean into a dumping ground, inundating it with a deluge of trash, including a lot of single-use plastics that should have never been produced in the first place. 


I’d like to put a water wheel in every river that flows into the ocean in the state of California. . . We have to stop this trash,” said Assemblymember Diane Dixon, whose resolve stems from experience. Since 2016, as a Newport Beach councilmember and then an Assemblymember, she and the city worked hard on a plan to install a trash interceptor in the San Diego Creek to capture the trash flowing down from Irvine. The operation is expected to start by December.


This $5.5 million project could not be possible without various grants from the state and county, including $1.68 million from Ocean Protection Council in 2018 (with support from the American Chemistry Council), $500,000 from Orange County Transportation Authority in 2020, and $1.6 million from California Department of Water Resources in 2023. Why should taxpayers have to foot the bill for a problem caused by the plastic and fossil fuel industries?

 

This also begs the question: Why prioritize such a costly cleanup project over reducing trash at the source? Newport Beach understands the concern. In 2017, some of us were invited to join the city to research and draft bans on single-use plastic bags, balloons and foodware. But in 2022, the city council ignored the California Coastal Commission's request to adopt the bans. Unfortunately, upstream, the Irvine city council also chose not to approve a proposed plastics ban due to opposition by a coalition of industry groups including the California Chamber of Commerce. 


ExxonMobil, the No.1 contributor to single-use plastic waste generation according to The Plastic Waste Makers Index, disclosed their lobbying expenditures of at least $1 million to the American Chemistry Council and at least $5,000 to the California Chamber of Commerce. With legislative roadblocks existing both upstream and downstream, the trash interceptor is likely the sole solution to mitigate the influx of ocean-bound trash in the near future. 


But amid the prevailing challenges, progress in plastics reduction initiatives is evident within the Angeles Chapter area.


Since 2019, the County of Los Angeles has partnered with The Ocean Cleanup for a trash interceptor in the Ballona Creek, joined a growing number of cities and counties that require reusable foodware, and received $417,125 from the Ocean Protection Council to implement its plastic ban.

 

Between now and April 26, the City of Los Angeles is seeking public comments for its Comprehensive Plastics Reduction Program. If you live or work in the city, please participate in the public meetings on April 4 or 6, and provide comments to support the city’s effort.  

 

If you live in a city that is not taking action to combat the pervasive influence of Big Plastic and Big Oil, don’t lose hope. Join us for the statewide efforts. If your Assemblymembers or Senators are on the committees that will hear the following bills soon, please ask them to vote YES. 


Bill with Our Supporting Document

Committee to Receive the Next Hearing: 

Committee Members in Los Angeles and Orange Counties

AB 2236 would ban the use of plastic bags by grocery stores.

AB 2648 would prohibit state agencies from purchasing single-use plastic beverage bottles of 24 fluid ounces or less.

SB 1053 would ban the use of plastic bags by grocery stores.

SB 1167 would require chain restaurants to provide dine-in customers with non-toxic reusable cups. 

SB 252 would require the California public employee pension funds (CalPERS and CalSTRS) to divest from fossil fuels by 2031.

 

Earth Day themed “Planet vs. Plastics” calls for meaningful change. By reducing single-use plastic consumption, not only can we alleviate the financial burden of cleanups but also redirect resources towards improving environmental justice and a healthier planet.'

 

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