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California cracking down on plastic pollution through landmark legislation

This new law requires all single-use products to be either recyclable or compostable by 2032.

SAN DIEGO — California is making history when it comes to cracking down on plastic pollution in the Golden State. This week, Governor Newsom signed groundbreaking legislation that would require single-use packaging to be recyclable or compostable within the next decade. 

Environmental experts said that this legislation goes further than any other state's laws in requiring manufacturers to produce less plastic. 

'A hallelujah moment'

"It was a hallelujah moment in a week of really depressing news," said Pam Heatherington, co-founder of the Environmental Center of San Diego

She hailed California's landmark legislation as a major victory for the environment, and for Californians.

"You have to start somewhere, and this is the first step," she told CBS 8.  

This law requires a 25% reduction across all plastic packaging sold in the state, from shampoo bottles to plastic eating utensils, in the next ten years.

In that same time frame, this law would mandate that 65% of all single-use plastic packaging to be recycled.

"Even if we fall short of that goal, we have at least started towards that goal," Heatherington said. 

Currently in California, less than 15% of single-use plastics are recycled, and those plastics make up about half of all plastic waste, according to the non-profit Californians Against Waste, posing environmental and health risks: risks that this new legislation promises to reduce.

"It has gone on for too long," Heatherington said. "The people responsible need to take responsibility for the mess they're making."

Cost shifts from taxpayers to manufacturers

One of the most groundbreaking parts of this law: packaging manufacturers will now have to cover the costs of recycling the plastic, from collection and sorting facilities to recycling plants. Those expenses were previously paid for by taxpayers.

San Diegan Jenee Johnson, who recently moved here from New York, is on-board with that.

"I think that's even better," Johnson said. "Less money that we have to pay." 

In a statement, the American Chemistry Council, representing major plastics manufacturers nationwide, said that this new legislation was "not perfect" but said it is committed to work to eliminate plastic waste, saying "We want to be a partner in sustainability so society can retain the benefits plastics provide to our modern lives while ending plastic waste in our environment."

According to the non-profit group Ocean Conservancy, this new legislation is expected to eliminate 23 million tons of plastic in the next ten years. 

WATCH RELATED: Californians to vote on ballot measure to reduce single-use plastic waste (April 2022).

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