California governor signs legislation to tackle plastic pollution and ban use of toxic chemicals
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California governor signs legislation to tackle plastic pollution and ban use of toxic chemicals

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed nine bills into law on Tuesday to reduce single-use trash pollution and support recycling goals, address climate change, and ban the use of Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in products for children and in disposable food packaging.

To be advertised or labeled as recyclable, Senate Bill 343 requires products to meet benchmarks helping consumers clearly identify which products are recyclable in California. To combat plastic pollution and “advance a more sustainable and renewable economy,” Newsom signed additional bills to raise consumer awareness and industry accountability regarding the matter and discourage plastic exports. These actions ensure that only exports of “truly recycled plastics” count toward state waste reduction and recycling metrics.

To raise demand for recyclables and attract green industry to California, the legislation package also includes additional funding to support the work of CalRecycle’s new Office of Innovation in Recycling and Remanufacturing. These funds will support organic waste infrastructure, food recovery efforts and composting, re-manufacturing and recycling infrastructure, and investments in disadvantaged communities. These bills complement Newsom’s California Comeback Plan, toward which $270 million has been invested to modernize recycling systems and promote a more “circular economy.”

Newsom stated of these actions:

California’s hallmark is solving problems through innovation, and we’re harnessing that spirit to reduce the waste filling our landfills and generating harmful pollutants driving the climate crisis…With today’s action and bold investments to transform our recycling systems, the state continues to lead the way to a more sustainable and resilient future for the planet and all our communities.

Also included in the package are Assembly Bills (AB) 652 and 1200. AB652 bans the use of PFASs in products for children, such as car seats and cribs, beginning July 1, 2023. Earlier this year, California required manufacturers of carpets and rugs to consider less toxic alternatives to PFASs, due to their unique exposure risk to children when used in carpets and rugs.

AB1200 prohibits disposable food packaging from containing intentionally added PFASs and requires cookware manufacturers to disclose the presence of hazardous chemicals such as PFASs on their product labels and online.

PFASs are a class of over 5,000 man-made chemicals that have seen heavy use since the 60s in applications as varied as non-adhesive cookware, water-repellent clothing and firefighting foam for combating oil blazes. They are referred to as “forever chemicals” because they are almost nonreactive and incredibly resistant to extreme heat and other environmental actions preventing them from ever breaking down.

PFASs have been linked to serious health hazards such as cholesterol problems, birth defects, hormonal deficiencies and a number of cancers, and have been found in the bodies of almost every human being studied. In other words, almost every one of us have ingested PFASs at some point of time in some form or the other. Due to their high chemical integrity and persistent nature, PFASs are prone to accumulate in water sources and food chains.