By: Ta Lese Morrow, Publisher, Inland Valley News, Inc.
Statewide — How can so many Californians be lulled into a plastic world of ecological complacency? The convenience of plastic in our homes, communities and businesses is an ever present and ever-increasing contradiction and challenge to proper and cost-effective ways to recycle. California is a leader in so many fields — technology, sciences, entertainment. Purportedly California focuses on the good of the people. How so?
California has recycling programs, plans, and projects in place. Our citizens tend to have a heightened awareness regarding recyclable materials. Households have decreased one-use items. Businesses have converted to biodegradable utensils. Natural materials that permanently harm our sensitive environment have replaced oil-based products in some cases. None of these products recycle themselves just because a blue trash can that says RECYCLE is available. One-use products still overrun landfills. Plastic waste products make their way to through gutters to lake and rivers and eventually to oceans. Our oceans have become floating garbage dumps. Wildlife and sea life are dying, trapped in meshes of plastic waste. Entire species are losing the plastic battle for life.
Businesses are complying with government regulations and guidelines. As laws are established and mandates put in place, restaurants are scampering to adhere to practices that will keep their businesses open. But inconsistencies in interpretation and implementation; inter- and intra- agency feuding and lack of commitment to the environment have led us to the brink of self-induced disaster.
During this current six-month pandemic, indoor dining has been eliminated, then reinstated and reestablished with on-again off- again regulations. These very businesses, a backbone of employment and stability in our communities, are snapshots of working together to protect the environment. However, the cost for takeout containers is doubling and sometimes tripling. The fluctuating costs for takeout containers forces restauranteurs to choose between maintaining a staff, limiting services or the worst case of closing their doors. This is a lose-lose scenario.
Recycling facilities are overwhelmed with the busy-ness and red tape of recycling. Some are choosing to collect recyclables and ferry them off to landfills with no remorse or conscience to do otherwise. Many facilities have opted to close their operations permanently.
The statewide infrastructure for recycling is not functioning as a circular economy. Experts at the Department of Finance state that the “provisions of SB 54 are infeasible to implement with current technology.”
With California facing a $54 billion deficit that will negatively affect education, housing, and many other key programs, this is not the time to position SB 54 to be approved as it is written.
The merits and the bill fall short of providing an effective recycling solution for our households, communities, and businesses. Does recycling need to be addressed? Do facilities need to operate to serve the needs of ongoing recycling? Do programs need to be in place for long-term solutions to California’s recycling problems? Yes, yes, and yes!
However, SB54 is the wrong approach with the wrong solution at the wrong time. Increased recycling costs; poor government and agency planning; and limited resources make it necessary to address the basics of this flawed bill.
CalRecycle should not be the final word for consumer and manufacturer fees.