Environmental Coalition Sponsors Pacific Protection Initiative

Legislation Seeks to Preserve California’s $46 Billion a Year “Ocean Economy”

A statewide coalition of environmental groups – Heal the Bay, Environment California, Californians
Against Waste and San Diego Coastkeeper – are sponsoring and supporting
a flotilla of five bills, together called “Marine Debris: The Pacific Protection
Initiative.”

SB 898, SB 899, AB 258, AB 904 and AB 820 outline specific
actions for California to prevent and reduce the amount of trash, litter and
plastic (collectively known as marine debris) entering the ocean. Marine
debris represents a threat to California’s $46 billion ocean-dependent,
tourism-oriented economy and costs the state and local agencies millions of
dollars in clean-up costs every year. The Pacific Protection Initiative targets
some of the most abundant items that litter our coast and ocean, and could
foster statewide, and potentially global change.

With an estimated 3.5 million tons of trash and litter present off the coast of
California, 60-80% of all marine debris and 90% of all floating debris is
plastic. Plastic is so durable that it can take hundreds of years for it to break
down at sea, and some kinds never truly biodegrade at all. In fact, a section
of the North Pacific ocean is home to the world’s largest floating island of
trash, twice the size of Texas, where the Algalita Marine Research Foundation
has found there is six times more mass of plastic particles than there is
natural zooplankton.

The Pacific Protection Initiative’s various bills are based upon the state’s
Ocean Protection Council’s February 8, 2007 resolution to reduce plastic in
the ocean by 2015. The Pacific Protection Initiative seeks to significantly
reduce some of the most abundant and toxic types of marine debris,
including derelict fishing gear, toxic plastic packaging, pre-production plastic
resin pellets (commonly called “nurdles”), and single-use plastic food
packaging.

Environment California

AB 258: “California state and local agencies spend millions of
dollars each year on litter collection,” said Assemblymember Paul Krekorian
(Burbank, 43rd Assembly District), author of AB 258. “However, these
efforts do not capture the single most common type of plastic marine
debris – the smallest offenders called pre-production pellets, or nurdles.
Focusing on preventing discharge of nurdles in the first place is a prudent,
cost-effective solution.” California Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, a member of
the Ocean Protection Council and supporter of AB 258 says, “Nurdles are
ubiquitous in the environment and pose an enormous threat to aquatic life.
As a member of the Ocean Protection Council, I will advocate for increased
controls on the release of nurdles into our marine environment.”
Approximately 60 billion pounds of nurdles are manufactured in the United
States every year. A recent month-long study in Orange County, Calif.
estimates that more than 100 million nurdles litter the county’s beaches.

SB 899: The Toxic Free Oceans Act phases out by 2015 the use of
packaging that contains the ‘worst chemical offenders’: the toxic additives
styrene, bisphenol-A, perfluorooctanoic acid, vinyl chloride, nonylphenols,
and alkylphenols. “Using plastic packaging materials that are non-toxic will
keep our coastline clean and protect marine life, as well as public health”,
says author Senator Joe Simitian (Palo Alto, 11th Senate District.) “SB 899
is an important first step to address the issue of plastics plaguing our
seas.”

AB 904: According to author Assemblymember Mike Feuer (Los
Angeles, 42nd Assembly District), “Take-out food packaging is a huge part
of beach litter. Currently, little of the packaging used is recycled.” AB 904
requires that 25% of food service packaging be recoverable for either
composting or recycling by 2012. “Economical, environmentally-friendly
alternative packaging options exist that are recyclable and/or compostable,
and should be used so we can protect both the ocean, and the bottom line
for businesses,” says Feuer.

• SB 898: This bill calls for guidelines for removal and disposal of
derelict fishing gear off the California coast, including nets, lines, crab and
ship pots/traps and other commercial harvest equipment. “We need to make
sure our oceans are free of lost or abandoned fishing gear that lasts for
years, entangling and drowning birds, marine mammals, and sea life,” says
author Senator Joe Simitian (Palo Alto, 11th Senate District). Lost or
abandoned gear can also entangle divers and swimmers and can also wrap
around rudders, propellers, anchors or drive shafts, resulting in thousands
dollars of damage to boaters in California.

AB 820: Foamed polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam, is
one of the largest components of marine debris; this bill prohibits the sale or
distribution of expanded polystyrene food containers at state facilities after
January 1, 2009. Says Assemblymember Betty Karnette (Long Beach, 54th
Assembly District), “Styrofoam is a toxic type of trash that pollutes our
beaches and waterways. Many cities throughout the state and the country
have banned expanded polystyrene food packaging in favor of non-toxic
biodegradable and/or compostable alternatives; California should lead by
example.”

“The Pacific Protection Initiative will stem the plastic tide choking our sea,”
says Heal the Bay’s Legislative Director Leslie Tamminen. “Clean beaches are
good for our health, and for our economy.”

The PACIFIC PROTECTION INITIATIVE – Summary of Bills 2007

SB 898 - Senator Joe Simitian, 11th District
Contact: Sarah Mason (916) 651 – 4011 (Sacramento)
Derelict fishing gear can harm or kill marine wildlife and is also dangerous to
people. SB 898 calls for the creation of guidelines and programs to remove
and properly dispose derelict fishing gear, and to also improve waste
management by marina and vessel operators. The bill also clarifies a recent
law to help abate solid waste dumped into storm drains.

SB 899 - Senator Joe Simitian, 11th District
Contact: Sarah Mason (916) 651 – 4011 (Sacramento)
By banning the use of toxic plastic packaging, the Toxic Free Oceans Act will
prevent the contamination of California’s coastline, safeguard California’s
waterways and protect marine life and human health. SB 899 phases out the
use of packaging that contains the “worst offenders”, the toxic materials
styrene, bisphenol-A, perfluorooctanoic acid, vinyl chloride, nonylphenols,
and alkylphenols by 2015. Because plastic can take more than a hundred
years to breakdown, as debris, it presents a persistent and cumulative toxic
threat to our oceans and their inhabitants.

AB 258 – Assembly Member Paul Krekorian, 43rd District
Contact: Bob Reid (916) 319 – 2043 (Sacramento)
Preproduction plastic pellets, called “nurdles,” can cause starvation to
wildlife and other environmental hazards; if adopted, this bill would promote
zero discharge of “nurdles” from plastic industry facilities. It would require
plastic manufacturing, handling, and transportation facilities to implement
best-management practices to control discharges of plastics, and require the
dischargers to implement monitoring and reporting.

AB 904 – Assembly Member Mike Feuer, 42nd District
Contact: Rebecca Marcus (916) 319 – 2042 (Sacramento)
Take-out food packaging is some of the most problematic marine debris; this
bill prohibits a food provider from distributing food service packaging to a
consumer, unless the packaging is either compostable or recyclable. The
material must be accepted for take-back by the vendor and be capable of
being processed by a municipal recycling facility that serves at least 75% of
residents. After July 1, 2012, the packaging must be recovered for
composting or recycling at a rate of 25%, or more. Any person or distributor
in violation is subject to significant fines.

AB 820 – Assembly Member Betty Karnette, 54th District
Contact: Ted Muhlhauser or Mandi Bailhache (916) 319 – 2054
(Sacramento)
Foamed polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam, is one of the largest
components of marine debris; this bill prohibits the sale or distribution of
expanded polystyrene food containers at state facilities after January 1,
2009. This includes all campuses of California Community Colleges,
California State Universities and the University of California.