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Newsom signs bills aimed at reducing plastic use

Soon, you will not receive plastic utensils or sauces in your orders unless you ask for them. Companies will need to be honest in labeling something as recyclable.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — What people can and can’t recycle can be confusing. Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation Tuesday aimed at clearing up some of the confusion and reducing plastic pollution.  

The head of the Recycling Commission, Heidi Sanborn, said no amount of education can combat the amount of misinformation on plastic products. 

For example, she said Red Solo Cups have a recycle logo right on the bottom of them, but you can’t actually recycle this type of plastic in California. 

Plastic bags are another example. All plastic grocery store bags have a recycle logo on them, but you can't stick them in your recycling bin. They clog up the sorting machines. 

“I think we've all been there," said Californians Against Waste Policy Manager Amy Gilson, "Where we're looking at something and we're going, 'Oh, does this go into the blue bin, or do I throw this out,' right?"

Gilson and Sanborn said many companies use the recycling arrow on products that can’t actually be recycled. SB343 will change that. 

"It's great advertising," Gilson said. "You look at it, and you're like ‘oh, this is awesome!  It's recyclable! I want to be good to the environment; I'm going to use this bag. I'm gonna put it in my recycling bin. And I've done my job for the earth today.'”

Sanborn, who sits on the commission, said there's "finally going to (be) a sheriff in town when it comes to labeling and proper information to the public, and what's recyclable."

The commission gave recommendations to policymakers on ways to reduce plastic consumption. If a company needs to remove or change the label on a product for 40 million Californians though, it’ll most likely remove the label from all of its products.

That’s why people pay close attention to new laws passed in the Golden State and fight hard if they don’t like it.

In California, some companies export their waste to other countries.

“So there's legislation that was signed that says, 'look, you can't just export something that's going to get dumped in another country that doesn't have the infrastructure to handle it, and call that recycling,'" Gilson said. 

Another new law bans handing out plastic utensils and sauce packets unless they are explicitly asked for. 

"You're at home during the pandemic, and you get takeout," Gilson said. "It comes with all those things. And then you go home, and you eat on your own plates, and you eat with your own forks and knives, right? So, let's start bringing down that extra plastic that we don't really need." 

Sanborn believes the commission's work is actually going to end up in national bills this year.

Aside from being head of the commission, Sanborn is also the executive director of a national company that helped with a very similar bill at the federal level also centered around truth in labeling. 

If this bill co-sponsored by a Democrat in California and a Republican in Michigan is signed, all “flushable" wet wipes will have to remove the word “flush” from it.

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