By Doug Brooms, NCRA Boardmember and Legislative Lead, 4/2017
Have you ever given much thought to the array of mostly environmental laws which protect our food, water, air, health, safety, climate, security… in short, our well-being? What if there emerged a nationwide 4-year campaign to systematically dismantle, roll back and weaken many of the laws, regulations and safeguards that we casually take for granted? Perhaps you should consider adopting a bill or even join the NCRA committee that evaluates bills for letters of support or opposition.
Lucky for us, California is one of only six states – CA, DE, HI, OR, RI, WA, having a democratic governor and majority legislature, arguably with a greater predisposition towards environmental protection over special interests. The California Environmental Protection Agency “Cal EPA” historically has been party to landmark laws and statutes, and in leading the nation with lofty targets for resource recovery, mitigation of greenhouse gases and climate protection.
Cal EPA is comprised of an array of state agencies, one of which is the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (DRRR) or “CalRecycle”. (Click here for the CalRecycle State of Recycling in California – Updated 2016.) Of the hundreds of bills introduced during the first two months of each year, CalRecycle handpicks three dozen or so for their Priority List. NCRA in turn selects those considered worthy of our merit to support or oppose.
For 2015, there had been an initial set of 44 CalRecycle priority bills, of which 8 ultimately got signed into law, 18%. NCRA had written 12 letters of support to committee chairs, and subsequently five to Governor Brown, all of which he signed. For 2016, there had been 41 CalRecycle bills, of which NCRA had supported 9, including 8 bills of the 20 that got passed, 49%.
There was one 2016 bill that had gained fervent support among NCRA members. Prop 67 would uphold the 2014 statewide law to phase out single-use grocery bags, an ever growing environmental scourge and hazard to wild- and marine-life. Plastic bag manufacturers from NJ, SC and TX spent over $20 million in opposition. Weeks before the Nov. 2016 elections, NCRA activists led by the board conducted comprehensive voter outreach, canvasing at supermarkets and events, phone calling, posting blogs and bulletin board posts and produced a 3-minute must-see video, “Yes on Prop 67, Ban the Bags!”. NCRA is proud to have been among the hundreds of organizations which contributed to the passage of Prop 67, albeit by a modest 52-48 margin.
For 2017 there are 31 CalRecycle priority bills, of which 12 NRCA has supported or likely will support, plus another 12 having promising potential. Among the remaining crop, we particularly like those in the spirit of last year’s Prop 67 towards mitigating the bane of plastic pollution of our lands and oceans, and the deleterious effects to sea-faring birds and marine life. AB 319, initiated by a number of our members who are also leaders of the Save The Albatross Coalition, would prohibit a retailer from selling or offering for sale a single-use plastic beverage container with a cap that is not tethered to or contiguously affixed. AB 1594 aims to curb ocean plastic pollution, and SB 705 would phase out Styrofoam and other single use plastic food packaging and wares, in favor of compostable and recyclable versions.
In the spirit of Zero Food Waste, there are two bills, AB 954 “Food Packaging Date Labels” and AB 1219 the “California Good Samaritan Food Donation Act”. Both are designed to lessen edible food waste. (Here is information from the USDA website regarding the federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act signed into law by President Clinton in 1996.)
The NCRA ZWAC committee has prepared 4 letters to date. You are welcome to reuse them for your own organization. Send a note to the office via our contact page to receive them in an editable document.
To see abbreviated descriptions of CalRecycle’s Priority List, and to stay abreast with NCRA’s preferences and support of bills, periodically visit our 2017 legislative page. Another valuable source for current legislation updates is Californians Against Waste (CAW).
If you have inclinations towards environmental or legislative activism, consider getting more engaged with NCRA, or whichever environmental justice organization that you prefer. Environmental and Zero Waste Advocacy in California are as important as ever, to preserve hard fought environmental victories and to create new ones. Consider advocating for those bills that are beyond the purview of NCRA, but nonetheless are worthy of pursuit. Make a phone call, sign a petition, join a discussion, or do whatever might sway or persuade a lawmaker. Thus whenever again you ponder the panoply of coveted laws that protect us, the planet and our future, be content that you made a contribution, in your own way, to your own well-being.