In California, on average, 76.7 million tons of trash are generated and 46 million tons ended up in a landfill, while the rest was recycled or composted each year, according to
In 2022, Senate Bill 54 (SB 54) was passed to phase out all single-use plastic by 2025. The bill will increase composting and recycling requirements to eliminate single-use plastic. This means that the traditional plastic packaging found on grocery shelves and in retail stores will be gone.
This bill aims to combat the waste management struggles that are growing environmental issues. More than 12,000 tons of plastic are dumped into landfills every day. In addition, less than 9% of plastic is recycled in spite of modern recycling efforts, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“The truth is we are generating waste so much faster than our efforts to recycle,” said Mark Murray, a member of Californians Against Waste, to the Los Angeles Times.
The cause of the increase in waste is from fossil fuel industries, energy companies and plastic plants. The bill establishes the Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act. This would encompass single-use plastic and packaging, leaving the job of the producers of the packaging to figure out how to produce more environmental-friendly packaging instead of the consumers and the government.
The growth of plastic waste creates environmental issues that extend beyond the actual storage of the waste, as it can also carry toxins that can harm humans and the environment.
“You can think of plastic as a carrier for other chemicals, and in many ways, it’s like a sponge,” said Scott Coffin, senior scientist with the California State Water Board, in an interview with KQED.
After Jan. 1, 2032, California wants to recycle 65% of plastic-covered material, according to the bill. Although that is far away from now, the state can only meet this goal if companies follow the bill and begin to reduce waste.
As producers start decreasing the use of plastic, it will inevitably impact our lives, even at California Baptist University. The plastic containers students purchase, eat from and drink from will dwindle in favor of eco-friendly alternatives.
The issue with alternatives is their high cost. Some biodegradable products are more expensive than non-biodegradable products, but according to SFGATE, as the demand for more biodegradable products increases, they will cost less.
“I believe that the costs are worth it to enhance the sustainability our planet’s resources, which God has endowed on us to use and steward properly,” said Dr. Michael Nalbandian, associate professor of civil engineering and construction management. “It is an investment on the longevity of God’s creation for the next generation and the generations to come.”
SB 54 has a significant goal for how much waste should be recycled by 2032, but is this achievable when California creates more waste than it can get rid of?
“I believe that it is achievable,” Nalbandian said. “We have the tools, technology and ingenuity to make it happen in the near future, but it all comes down to society’s willingness, and that speaks to all aspects of the environment.”
Camdyn Taylor, freshman elementary education major, said she thinks students will likely see less plastic around campus but raised concerns about the potential financial implications of the bill.
“I think that it will affect college campuses by getting rid of different plastics that we use on a daily basis and replace them with biodegradable products,” Taylor said. “I also assume that it would cost more money, which might take away from college programs.”
Even though there will be a reduction in plastic, Nalbandian doubts that the state will go plastic-free anytime soon.
“With the right intentions and systems in place, sure, it’s possible to go single-use free or completely plastic-free,” Nalbandian said. “But considering the benefits of recyclable plastics as a cheap, consumable product, I don’t necessarily think that California would go completely plastic-free.”
Although it is the producer’s job to handle how to comply with the bill, consumers can continue to recycle and advocate more for the change from single-use plastic to biodegradable products to better protect our environment.
“Overall, moderation is key,” Nalbandian said. “As a society, we must be mindful of our current standard of living along with the sustainability of our resources.”