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L.A. Councilmembers Call for Sweeping Reforms to Recycling Programs and State Enforcement of Labeling Laws on Plastics

Posted on 02/22/2022

LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles City Councilmembers Paul Krekorian, Mitch OFarrell, Paul Koretz and Bob Blumenfield have called on the State Legislature and the Attorney General to take immediate action to fix the states broken recycling system. The Councilmembers introduced a resolution on February 16th declaring the citys support for groundbreaking recommendations of the California Statewide Commission on Recycling Markets & Curbside Recycling, as well as several pending bills that align with those recommendations. The Commission was formed in 2020 to examine Californias massive recycling system and propose comprehensive reforms to increase its effectiveness. To date, the Commission has released 34 policy recommendations that were unanimously approved. While the State Legislature has acted on some of these recommendations, the Councilmembers pressed for much more aggressive and urgent work to make statewide recycling more successful.

The Resolution also calls on Attorney General Rob Bonta to enforce the states labeling laws on plastic bags and films. The Councilmembers noted that many plastic items, and especially bags and films, are often falsely labeled as recyclable. In truth, these plastic items are virtually never recycled, and bags and films actually damage equipment at materials recovery facilities.

The world is drowning in plastic pollution that is destroying the marine environment and fouling California neighborhoods, said Councilmember Krekorian. For decades the petrochemical industry has enriched itself at the expense of the planet by pushing single-use plastics and promoting the myth of plastics recycling. This false narrative gives consumers comfort in using more plastic, when in fact only five percent of all of the plastic ever produced has been recycled. California needs to encourage more recycling of metal, glass and paper, and it needs to stop fueling the wishful thinking that most plastics are recyclable in the real world. They are not.

"The plastics industry has been trying to dupe us about recycling ever since the days of the so-called 'Crying Indian' commercial," said Councilmember Paul Koretz. "It's time to stop the shell game, stop labeling items as diverted from landfill when that is ultimately their destination, and save our cities millions of dollars from having to process contaminated blue bins."

"This is an issue of real urgency, and California must lead the way," said O'Farrell, the chair of the City Council's Energy, Climate Change, Environmental Justice, and River committee. "There is no recycling of plastic in any real way, in California or much less anywhere else. Anyone who ever takes a walk on a city sidewalk - in Los Angeles and beyond - will see plastic waste that ends up in our gutter, then in our storm drains, and then in the ocean. This is unacceptable, and we must act now."

Expanding how, and what, we can recycle is a critical component to addressing climate change on the local level, said Councilmember Bob Blumenfield. There are many great ideas that have been proposed that can help our environment, save our city money and allow for more materials to be recycled but we must continue to push on our friends in Sacramento to help make this progress happen.

"For decades California has led our nation, and the world, on climate policy by passing bold environmental legislation, and now we must tackle our broken recycling systems to preserve a healthy California for future generations," said Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, a co-author of AB 1690. As the 5th largest economy in the world, we have the opportunity to show that our state can improve our recycling stream and strengthen markets for recyclable materials, while creating new jobs, combatting pollution, and conserving natural resources."

The 16-member Commission is chaired by National Stewardship Action Councils (NSAC) Executive Director, Heidi Sanborn. The public is tired of their garbage rates and taxes increasing while seeing little benefit, and they want programs that work cost-effectively, said Sanborn. Eliminating wasteful single-use, mislabeled and unnecessary toxic products from the market will address those issues. The resolution comes on the heels of the Councils action this week to develop a comprehensive plastics reduction strategy for the City of Los Angeles.