Organizers of a California ballot initiative to put a penny fee on plastic packaging to fund recycling and clean up waste say they have enough signatures to put it front of voters in the November 2022 election.
Groups pushing the Plastics Free California Initiative announced Aug. 11 that they've gathered 870,000 signatures, about 40 percent more than the 623,000 they say they need to get on the ballot as a referendum.
"The simple fact is, there is just too much plastic — and too many different types of plastics — being produced, sold and littered into the environment; and there exist few, if any, viable end markets for … much of the material," said Mike Sangiacomo, president and CEO of San Francisco-based waste management firm Recology, which is helping to fund the ballot measure.
"This effort intends to course correct the situation by incentivizing a shift to more sustainable materials and developing end markets for the post-consumer plastic that remains," he said.
Groups backing the plan said they had been on track to get signatures and put it on the ballot this November, but the coronavirus pandemic interrupted their signature gathering. A judge had extended their deadlines.
They said the measure will "presumably" be on the 2022 general election ballot.
Documents from the organizers say that the 1-cent fee on single-use plastic packaging and foodservice products would "likely [generate] in the range of a few billion dollars annually" in government revenue to help fund recycling plants and environmental cleanup of waterways.
The measure would also ban nonrecyclable expanded polystyrene containers and require the state government to adopt rules aimed at reducing the amount of single-use plastic sold in the state by 25 percent by 2030.
It would require that all single-use plastic in the state be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2030. Organizers said the environmental restoration work will also protect drinking water, reduce runoff from pesticides and fund new composting facilities.
Supporters see the plan as reducing plastic waste and generating revenue for what they called broad solutions.
"The recent increase in disposables contributes to our climate crisis, costs taxpayers and local governments to clean up, and threatens human and wildlife health," said Genevieve Abedon with the Clean Seas Lobbying Coalition, an umbrella group of 11 environmental organizations supporting the referendum.
"With the initiative requiring producers to reduce the amount of plastic single-use packaging and foodware they make and sell first and foremost, and pay a fee for any recyclable or compostable items that they continue to produce, Californians have a chance to vote for a comprehensive solution to help create real change in the system," she said.
The plan also has support from some agriculture groups.
A document on the group's website, PlasticsFreeCA.org, lists the Washington-based Corn Refiners Association as one of three organizations providing "major funding" for the effort in June, along with Recology and the environmental group Oceana.
CRA is one of the founders of the Plant Based Products Council, which formed last year to advocate for making products, including plastic packaging, from renewable biomass. The PBPC website said the environmental group Californians Against Waste sits on its advisory board.
A CAW spokesman said CRA has contributed $250,000 to the Plastics Free California referendum campaign.
The measure is also backed by the California Climate and Agriculture Network, a Sacramento-based organization representing farmers and ranchers it says want more sustainable agricultural systems, including measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon.
The group's website lists phasing out single-use plastics and funding composting and soil restoration as one of their current campaigns, and it said a 1-cent fee on plastics could generate money for grants to farmers and ranchers for conservation.
"This initiative gives us the resources to move away from toxic plastics and towards a clean environment for all Californians while also investing in compost production and farmers who store carbon in healthy soils," CalCAN Policy Director Jeanne Merrill said in the Aug. 11 statement.