Members of environmental groups gathered at the Goleta Pier on Thursday to express support for two plastic waste reduction bills currently moving through the California Legislature.
Environment California and CALPIRG joined with local environmentalists from the League of Women Voters of California, Santa Barbara ChannelKeeper, and the Surfrider Foundation chapters of Isla Vista and Santa Barbara, as well as Santa Barbara City Councilman Jason Domiguez, to praise the bills as a potential victory in their efforts to keep plastic out of the ocean,
“We support both of these bills and all efforts to keep the ocean clean. The ocean is the mother of us all. It nourishes us, it entertains us, it feeds us, and, as a surfer, it kind of keeps us out of trouble,” said Ken Palley, treasurer for the Santa Barbara Surfrider chapter.
The bills, AB 1080 and SB 54, are identical. They would require businesses to demonstrate a recycling rate of not less than 20 percent by Jan. 1, 2024, not less than 40 percent by Jan. 1, 2028, and not less than 75 percent by Jan. 1, 2030, as a condition of sale of single-use plastic packaging or priority single-use plastic products.
Through banning substances, such as polystyrene or Styrofoam, and requiring new waste reports, the bills seek to dramatically reduce the amount of plastic waste generated by California.
The bills have already passed the houses of the Legislature in which they were introduced, and are now waiting for a second vote when legislators return from recess in September.
Shawn Mallen, executive director of the Isla Vista Surfrider chapter, testified about his group’s work cleaning local beaches and conducting weekly ocean water quality tests.
“We see significant spikes in bacteria levels after rain events. Bacteria adhere to plastics, especially plastics with food particles on them, which is really common, and they wash in the ocean,” Mr. Mallen said.
“This is a material that never fully degrades, so every piece of foam that’s ever been made is still floating out there in our environment and making its way into our bodies through our food chain and even through our clothing and water we’re drinking,” said Emma Horst-Martz, recruitment director for Environment California in Santa Barbara.
While the bills would have a major impact on California’s economy and environment, things in Santa Barbara will likely stay the same.
“The bill probably won’t change much for our local community, which is a good thing. It means we’re already protecting our environment in that way,” Ms. Horst-Martz told the News-Press.
With Santa Barbara’s bans on plastic straws and Styrofoam ban that went into effect Jan.1 of this year, the city has been ahead of the curve when it comes to environmental policy.
“Moving here to Santa Barbara it’s been very cool for me to see how here in the heart of the environmental movement how much our community understands the importance of our ocean and of protecting it, and I really hope our elected officials in Sacramento will help us lead the way in California by passing AB 1080 and SB 54,” said Sithara Menon from CALPIRG.
Mr. Dominguez said that local recycling facility updates keep Santa Barbara’s rates above the state mandate.
“We’re actually ahead of that percentage. We’re one of the leaders in the state,” he said.
Although businesses in Santa Barbara are largely on board, locals should not stop efforts to protect the environment, Ms.Menon said
“Here in California we’re a political and environmental leader. We can make a huge impact because 1 in 8 Americans live here in California, and if we were a country we’d have the fifth largest economy in the world. When Californians stand up on issues that we care about like this, the rest of the country often follows our lead, just as they did when we passed the first statewide plastic bag ban here to protect our oceans,” said Ms. Menon.
Ms. Horst-Martz and others at Thursday’s event encouraged the Santa Barbara public to make calls and send letters and emails to the offices of Assemblywoman Monique Lim-n, D-Santa Barbara, and state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, urging them to vote yes on the bills.
“They are champions for the environment but still need to hear that support to vote for these bills in September,” said Ms. Horst-Martz.