Local lawmakers say protecting the ocean means restricting single-use plastics

By Gary Walker

State Sen. Ben Allen calls for curbing plastic pollution during a press conference at Palisades Park
Photo by Maria Martin

Santa Monica’s state representatives are drumming up public support for legislation that would restrict single-use plastics in order to curb ocean pollution.

Assembly Bill 1884, cosponsored by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, would make California the first state in the nation to require that restaurants offer plastic straws only upon request.

State Sen. Ben Allen’s Senate Bill 1335 would mandate that all take-out packaging for food served at state parks and beaches is recyclable or compostable.

“Plastic pollution is an epidemic. It’s a global crisis,” Allen said before a joint press conference with an ocean view on Monday at Palisades Park. “We can have beach cleanup after beach cleanup, but the plastic keeps showing up on our shores. We’re here because often people don’t think about the implications that plastic can have on our waters, on our environment and on our economy.”

Bloom cited academic research that the world has created 6.3 billion tons of plastic refuse since the 1950s, and that as much as eight million metric tons of plastic ends up in the oceans each year.

“By 2050 there will be literally more plastic than fish if we don’t do something about this issue,” Bloom said. “If you think of breath as the essence of life, our ocean is not breathing well.”

The American Chemistry Council, a trade association that fought California’s plastic bag ban, has surprised some observers by coming out in favor of AB 1884.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Steve Russell, vice president of council’s plastics division. “As a member of the Trash Free Seas Alliance, we support many initiatives that help prevent marine litter, and we believe providing straws through an ‘on-demand’ system gives customers choice and helps prevent waste by ensuring that straws are distributed only to those who need them.”

The Plastics Industry Association is opposing Allen’s bill, saying government should focus on getting people to recycle plastics rather than imposing bans.

“There are serious misunderstandings about the relative recyclability of plastic products,” reads part of an email statement by Scott DeFife, the association’s VP of government affairs. “Instead of functionally banning them from state facilities, we should invest in and expand our recycling and waste management systems to make sure that every plastic product can be collected and put to its highest and best use.”

Activists with Environment California, a nonprofit political action group that lobbies for eco-friendly legislation, stood with Allen and Bloom during the press conference.

“We simply can’t continue to produce and throw away plastic at this rate,” said Dan Jacobson, the group’s state director. “It’s time to put our wildlife over waste and ban single-use polystyrene plastic and reduce single-use straws.”