Major Plastic Pollution Legislation Clears First Hurdle

Monday, April 9, 2018

SACRAMENTO – Today, legislation that begins confronting plastic microfibers, the most pervasive type of plastic pollution in our oceans and waterways, cleared the powerful Assembly Natural Resources Committee on a 6-4 vote.  The bill, AB 2379, by Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) requires that all clothing made primarily of polyester include a label that warns of plastic microfiber shedding and recommends handwashing the item in order to reduce the impact.

 

“Plastic microfibers are making their way from washing machines into our seafood and even into the water we drink,” said Bloom.  “Similar to climate change, the science is staring us in the face, waiting for us to act.  If we don’t, the problem will only get worse.”

 

Plastic microfibers shed from synthetic fabrics during regular washing, and because these tiny plastic fibers are small enough to get past filters, they’re ending up in waterways and the ocean.  In a recent survey that compared 150 tap water samples from locations in five continents, microscopic plastic fibers were found in nearly every sample, with 94% of the United States water samples containing plastic microfibers.  Studies in the last few years in the San Francisco Bay and the Great Lakes tributaries also confirm the significant presence of plastic microfibers coming from wastewater treatment facilities.

 

According to research from University of California, Davis which sampled fish and shellfish sold at local California fish markets, a quarter of fish and a third of shellfish contained plastic debris, with the majority of the plastic debris being microfibers.  Alarmingly, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s 2014 report on the future of plastics estimated that the world’s oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050. 

 

“This bill will educate the public so that they can do their part in stemming this alarming environmental and public health discovery,” added Bloom, who also authored the 2015 landmark California plastic microbead ban that was eventually applied nationally a year later through federal legislation signed by President Obama

 

The bill was co-authored by Assemblymembers Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher (D-San Diego) and Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) and supported by Californians Against Waste and the Story of Stuff.  The bill will now head to the Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials.