On November 8, 2016, California voters approved Proposition 67, the statewide ban on carry-out plastic bags, by 52 percent. At the same time, California voters rejected Proposition 65 by 55 percent–a measure that would have sent the proceeds from sales of paper bags and reusable bags to environmental causes.

Plastic Bage Seagull

Main Provisions of Proposition 67

  • Prohibits most grocery stores, convenience stores, large pharmacies, and liquor stores from providing single-use plastic carry-out bags. The provision excludes plastic bags used for certain purposes, such as those used for unwrapped produce.
  • Creates new standards for the material content and durability of reusable plastic carryout bags. The California Department of Resources Recovery and Recycling (CalRecycle) would be responsible for ensuring that bag manufacturers meet these requirements. The measure also defines standards for other types of carryout bags.
  • Requires a store to charge at least 10 cents for any carryout bag that it provides to consumers at checkout. Certain low-income would not have to pay the charge.

Main Provisions of Proposition 65

  • Redirects carryout bag revenue to a new state environmental fund called the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Fund.
  • Allows funds to be used for grants to support programs and projects related to  (1) drought mitigation; (2) recycling; (3) clean drinking water supplies; (4) state, regional, and local parks; (5) beach cleanup; (6) litter removal; and (7) wildlife habitat restoration.
  • Takes effect only if both propositions pass and Proposition 65 gets more “yes” votes than Proposition 67.

Continue Reading With the passage of Proposition 67, the question is “Would you like paper or…paper?”

The International Campaign Against Microbeads in Cosmetics is most likely celebrating this week, following the California State Legislature’s passage of a bill that would prohibit the use of plastic microbeads in personal care products after January 1, 2020.  The bill, AB 888, now heads to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for his signature.  Although several states already have similar legislation on the books (Maryland, for example), California of course is the largest and most economically significant of those jurisdictions to legislate a ban on microplastics in personal consumer products.

Microbeads, usually made from non-biodegradable polyethylene, are used in personal care products such as body wash and facial scrubs to add exfoliating properties.  In recent years, as the potential for adverse environmental, wildlife, and health consequences of microplastics has become more clear (the beads are too small to be filtered out by wastewater treatment plants, so they end up being discharged into lakes, rivers, and oceans), some manufacturers have begun voluntarily removing the ingredient from their personal care products.  The impetus for industry action came after Unilever announced in December 2012 that it would phase out plastic in all of its products worldwide by 2015; since that time Colgate-Palmolive and Johnson & Johnson have joined the pledge, along with many smaller companies.  The pledge to remove these microplastics also has been taken up by private-label manufacturers and distributors of certain personal care products, including Target and others.

In addition to state policymakers and legislators, the U.S. Congress is taking note of the emerging science and environmental advocacy in this area.  The bipartisan Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 (H.R. 1321) was introduced this year by Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.)  and Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), respectively, and it is currently listed as having 34 cosponsors.  Companion legislation has also been introduced in the Senate by Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.); that identical bill (S. 1424) is currently listed as having 7 cosponsors.  The Microbead-Free Waters Act would effectively ban microplastics from personal care products after January 1, 2018, by deeming any cosmetic that contains them to be adulterated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.  The Personal Care Products Council, the industry’s primary trade association, noted in May testimony to the House E&C Committee that a uniform federal standard would be preferable to state-by-state action and that non-prescription drugs that contain microbeads should be included along with cosmetics in any such legislation.

We will update our readers of any developments related to federal action to remove plastic microbeads from the marketplace.