On April 19th, 2020 – the Glendale Environmental Coalition held an online PANEL DISCUSSION with focus on: Reducing Plastic Use and Plastic Waste in Glendale plus updates from state and local officials and employees on the current state of environmental legislation in Los Angeles County and CA. Below is the agenda, followed by a meeting summary and links to presentations offered by our panelists.
1. COVID-19 Environmental Update—Laura Friedman, 43rd District Assembly member, provided an update on COVID-19 pandemic impacts on environmental issues, programs, and legislation.
2. Addressing the Plastic Waste Crisis—Panel discussion on the impacts of single-use plastics and opportunities for local action, with panelists:
Jennifer Pinkerton, GEC core member and recycling/organics/zero waste specialist with LA Sanitation, manages LA City Facilities Recycling Program, Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP), Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), general waste prevention, and food rescue. Jennifer focused on zero waste and food issues.
Laura Friedman, 43rd State District Assembly Member; Chair, Natural Resources Committee; and Member, Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee, provided context on legislation and initiatives to reduce plastic waste.
Paul Rabinoff, GEC core member, was our host. Elise Kalfayan, GEC core member, moderated the panel discussion.MEETING SUMMARY:
STATE of the STATE – LEGISLATION HIGHLIGHTS:
43rd Assembly member Laura Friedman talked about COVID-19’s impact on legislative work and legislation. Friedman expects the legislature will hear only around 25 bills related to environmental issues in the remainder of this session, because of social distancing and limited remaining time, and the pandemic emergency taking most of state leaders’ time. Bills addressing wildfire preparedness and prevention, streamlining CEQA applications for affordable housing projects, and oversight of abandoned oil and gas wells are among those she expects to go forward. She will provide GEC with a list of the anticipated bills moving forward.
Friedman said an argument has begun over pursuing an environmental agenda in the wake of the pandemic. Industry interests want fewer regulations as businesses struggle to restart operations, and green new deal / environmental advocates want to create strong new rules so we can continue to experience clear skies, cleaner air, and reduced traffic.
Also of note, before the pandemic, there were 3.4 million clean energy jobs in the U.S. – more than fossil fuel sector! 160K have filed for unemployment so far across the U.S., 20K in California. We have a huge need for a clean energy stimulus and people need to be advocating for that! We should NOT be using funds to bail out the oil industry. A CA Climate bond could address clean energy jobs and climate adaptation/resiliency measures.
Elise Kalfayan moderated a panel discussion with Assembly member Friedman, Ban SUP (Single Use Plastics) Co-Lead Cheryl Auger, and LA City Sanitation Recycling Coordinator / GEC member Jennifer Pinkerton.
Auger shared what Ban SUP has learned about plastics contribution to the local waste stream, rules and ordinances other municipalities have put in place to reduce plastic use and plastic waste, and how to educate residents, local businesses, and elected officials. Highlights of good progress include Pasadena’s Polystyrene ordinance and Santa Monica’s Environmentally Preferred Purchasing Policies and it’s focus on marine-degradable, to-go food ware. Ban SUP members have met with LA County officials on its single use plastic reduction initiative. Pasadena to follow LA County’s ordinance.
Jennifer Pinkerton, who also worked at Californians Against Waste, spoke about problems with single use food containers (including fiber ware that often contain PFAS – resources here) and food waste, and their connection to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Pinkerton explained the numerous problems with “recycling” as it currently exists (barely), and advocates strongly for a change in culture to reusables. She’s an authority on how cities are currently managing waste, and offered multiple ideas we could pursue in Glendale to reduce single use plastic use and the waste stream overall, including an emphasis on food rescue and organics recycling, which are mandated under SB1383 . (Organics recycling will roll out for both residents and businesses in Glendale by January, 2022.)
PLEASE REVIEW THESE EXCELLENT PRESENTATIONS FROM OUR PANELISTS:
They are worth reviewing in detail – each has information and ideas that we can advocate for locally.
Assembly member Friedman was part of the panel discussion and emphasized that plastic waste really should be a focus in Glendale as it 1) lasts practically forever in the environment, 2) is now a huge threat to marine life and oceans around the world, and 3) is made from fossil fuels industry so its production involves extraction and processing that contributes to climate change. She stressed that all of this convenience translates to a tremendous COST that is currently shouldered entirely by local communities (hauling, disposal, ground water contamination affecting our bodies and babies, and waterway pollution, for example.)
Friedman is a co-sponsor of a bill that addresses plastic waste directly: AB1080, the California Circular Economy and Pollution Reduction Act,which may or may not go forward this year due to the pandemic. She hopes to take this time to fine tune the bill so that it is more enforceable, focusing in on plastic packaging. Friedman notes that if you focus on recycled content minimums, you WILL SEE a source reduction by manufacturers.
She also notes the Green Chemistry Council, possibly due to its supporters who include the plastics industry, has been a catastrophe, and should be gotten rid of. The agency says it will address PFAS in the next 10-15 years (FAR too distant) and has only banned 2 chemicals in CA vs. Texas which has banned 30 in the same time period, proving the agency is ineffective.
Gary Gero, a GEC member and LA County’s Chief Sustainability Officer, gave a quick update on the county’s work to establish an ordinance to reduce the use of single use plastic food service ware in unincorporated LA County. Work on the ordinance is basically on hold right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic emergency and his re-direction to coordinating food/food-security throughout the county. LA County commissioned a study from UCLA and worked with public works and others to inform the ordinance. The county was actively seeking other cities, including LA, Pasadena and Long Beach, to sign on to the initiative. The idea is to work with other cities so everyone is on the same page. The initiative will resume as soon as possible.
Friedman fielded a question about the citizen initiative on the November ballot, the California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act of 2020(Surfrider foundation breaks it down here.) She said it roughly mirrors AB1080 but has other provisions that may make enforcement difficult – but says it may be all we have if 1080 does not get off the ground. She will explore the bill more in depth and provide us her feedback. She also brought into focus another core issue: the need to make producers of the plastic responsible for what they create, instead of allowing them to pass disposal costs along the municipalities and taxpayers. Extended Producer Responsibility requires manufacturers to create a system for taking back and/or recycling plastics so they don’t end up in the waste stream.
Auger and Pinkerton also answered several questions and are going to be great resources going forward – we thank them both for presenting at our meeting and for the annotated slides published her. Thank you also to Assembly member Friedman for speaking to the Glendale Environmental Coalition, for giving us a comprehensive update during a time of great upheaval in the state, and for continuing to be a strong leader on environmental issues!
Thank YOU for joining us both in real time for our webinar, and here on this blog post. If you have follow up questions or would like to get involved with GEC – please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources on the plastic waste crisis:
PBS NewsHour presents “The Plastic Problem”—Amna Nawaz and her PBS NewsHour colleagues look at how plastic is impacting the world, why it’s become so prevalent, what’s being done to mitigate its use, and what potential alternatives or solutions are out there. (54 mins)
KCET & SoCal Connected present “Life In Plastic: California’s Recycling Woes”—As California deals with the fallout of a global waste crisis, plastic manufacturers continue to spread misleading information about recycling, while spending big on lobbying efforts to keep their products on the shelves. Features local waste leaders from Pasadena and Burbank. (26 mins)