Cigarette filters made from single-use plastic are a huge environmental problem, butt (pun intended), upcoming California legislation offers the first steps toward a solution.
Cigarette Butts are the #1 thing we find at our Nothin’ But Sand Beach Cleanups.
Heal the Bay cleanup volunteers have removed a total of 953,756 cigarette butts from beaches in Los Angeles since 2008. Although we are proud of this impact, the pollution problem is never-ending and what is especially concerning is that the filters in cigarettes are made from plastic, which never goes away. Cigarette butts are not only the most prevalent thing we find on our beach cleanups, they are the most littered item on Earth. For an item so small, they have a massive negative impact on marine habitats.
Not People Friendly, Not Planet Friendly
But aren’t cigarette filters an important public health and safety measure? Contrary to popular belief cigarette filters do not offer health protections. In 1964 the Surgeon General judged cigarette filters to be useless in reducing harm to the average smoker and the health benefits of filters have been called “fraudulent” by the World Health Organization.
Cigarette filters are unhealthy for fish and wildlife too. When cigarette butts with filters are thrown onto the street, they make their way through the storm drain system that flows out to the ocean, carrying the chemicals and toxins found in cigarettes with them. About 90% of filters are made from plastic and end up as micro-plastics in our ocean, which have infiltrated the food web, from fish to humans. Butt, a plan to take single-use plastic filters out of the equation is on the horizon.
Butt, a change is coming!
This year, The Smoking Waste Pollution Prevention Act looks to phase out the sale of single-use, non-rechargeable vaping devices and cigarette/cigar “filters” in California. When our state makes big moves toward change it gives other states the opportunity to follow and before you know it there could be nation-wide change. Use your voice to bring this change to California first. How can you help?
Call or email your California Legislators and ask them to vote YES on AB 1690 at the Assembly Health Committee on March 29 (it takes 3 minutes).
Spread the word and share what you’ve learned on social media using the hashtags #AB1690, #CircularEconomy, and #CAMustLEAD! Most people have no idea that cigarette butts are so detrimental to the environment, but when we share what we know we can empower others to help make change.
2021 was a turning point for environmental legislation in California.
Following a legislative season of major challenges for the environment during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, our assemblymembers and senators were able to push through some exciting new laws and regulations this year to tackle plastic pollution, water quality, and climate change. Despite some successes, there is much more work to be done. Our team of scientists and advocates breaks it down for you below so you can stay in the know.
A Big Win for Water Quality: AB 1066 (Bloom)
This year, Heal the Bay sponsored Assembly Bill 1066 which passed with flying colors through the legislature. We firmly believe that inland water recreation areas, where people swim, boat, and wade in the water, should have the same health protections as coastal areas. AB 1066 takes the first steps toward addressing water quality monitoring disparities between ocean and freshwater sites by requiring that the California Water Quality Monitoring Council develop recommendations for a uniform statewide freshwater monitoring program. Learn more about this bill and what it means for freshwater quality monitoring.
The California Circular Economy Package: Wins for Fighting Plastic Pollution
This year, a suite of bills dubbed the California Circular Economy Package was introduced by a variety of California decision-makers. While not all of the bills made it through the harrowing process to become law, these five did, and they mark some major wins for tackling plastic pollution and toxins in California.
✅ SB 343 (Allen) expands on California’s truthful labeling law and limits the use of the “chasing arrows” symbol to products and packaging that are actually recycled in California, reducing consumer confusion and recycling contamination. ✅ AB 881 (L. Gonzalez) reclassifies mixed plastic exports as disposal instead of recycling while still allowing for truly recyclable plastics to be counted towards our state’s recycling goals. ✅ AB 1276 (Carrillo) requires foodware accessories to only be given to customers upon their explicit request, reducing the waste of “zero-use” plastics like utensils and condiment packets. ✅ AB 1201 (Ting) also requires truthful labeling for compostable products, only allowing the word “compostable” to be used on products and packaging that are truly compostable in California, increasing effective composting and reducing toxic chemicals in packaging materials. ✅ AB 962 (Kamlager) paves the way for refill systems in California by allowing reusable glass bottles to be returned, refilled, and reused as part of California’s Beverage Container Recycling Program.
Climate Wins (and losses)
The climate crisis is here. In 2021, numerous extreme weather events across the world brought increased urgency to the issue along with the realization that these “extreme” events will become increasingly more common and will affect each and every one of us. Let’s take a look at the big wins of 2021.
✅ SB 1 (Atkins) formally recognizes sea level rise as an urgent need to be addressed by the California Coastal Commission, establishes cross-agency coordination to tackle sea level rise, and establishes a $100 million grant program for local governments to prepare for rising seas. ✅ Climate Resilience Package included in this year’s state budget invests $15 billion – the largest investment to date – in addressing an array of climate change concerns, including wildfires & forest resilience, rising heat, and sea level rise.
California is leading the charge for addressing climate change in many ways, but still has a long way to go. Let’s take a look at the places where California fell short on addressing the climate crisis.
❌ SB 467 (Limon and Weiner) would have banned oil and gas production across California and required a 2,500-foot buffer between drilling sites and sensitive receptors such as homes and schools. We were devastated to see this bill die in the Senate this year but are working closely with environmental justice groups across the state to tackle this issue with creative solutions. ❌ AB 1395 (Muratsuchi and C. Garcia), also referred to as the California Climate Crisis Act would have set ambitious climate goals for the state, including strict emissions standards and accelerated efforts to reduce the burning of fossil fuels.
Other Environmental Wins of 2021
Plastics and Climate Change aren’t the only challenges our communities and environment face. The legislature had a few other successes this year in tackling pollution.
✅ AJR2 (O’Donnell) calls on Congress and the United States Environmental Protection Agency to take action on the recently uncovered dumping of DDT and other waste into the deep ocean between the coast of Los Angeles and Catalina Island. This resolution is a great first step and Heal the Bay looks forward to continued work in 2022 on securing state funding for work on DDT and pushing for a community oversight committee on the issue to ensure transparency and accountability.
✅ SB 433 (Allen) expands the authority of the California Coastal Commission to enforce the 1976 Coastal Act through fines. Previously, the Coastal Commission could only levy fines for violations related to public access but now, with SB 433, the Commission can impose fines for violations related to impacts to wetlands, beaches, and coastal wildlife and waters. Coming on the heels of the devastating oil spill in Orange County, we are thrilled to see increased accountability for those who cause damage to our precious coastal resources.
✅ AB 818 (Bloom) requires clear and conspicuous labeling on disposable wipes that states “DO NOT FLUSH”. All too often, disposable wipes that are not intended to be flushed end up down toilets and in municipal wastewater treatment facilities where they can wreak havoc and cause blockage and spills. Especially after the disastrous sewage spill at the Hyperion Wastewater Treatment Center in Los Angeles earlier this year, legislation like this is important to both reduce consumer confusion and protect our local water bodies and wastewater treatment workers from harm.
Looking Forward: 2022
As we plan for the year ahead, we are hoping for a much stronger and more progressive year in passing regulations to tackle the climate crisis and water pollution issues, and we already know some items on the table. Heal the Bay will be strongly supporting these measures:
SB 54 (Allen) is a bill you have heard us mention before – a massive plastic pollution reduction bill that would comprehensively tackle plastics through reduction measures and recycling reform. Next year will be the 4th year this bill is attempting to make its way through and we are committed to supporting it.
The California Plastic Waste Reduction Regulations Initiative is an initiative eligible for the November 8, 2022 ballot that would enact a massive plastic pollution reduction program, including a “pollution reduction fee” holding producers financially accountable for the pollution they create. Keep an eye out for it on your ballot next year!
With the COVID-19 pandemic still creating a massive public health crisis in California and globally this year, environmental legislation once again struggled to make significant progress. Heal the Bay is prepared and ready to help make up for lost time next year by pushing as hard as we can to pass regulations and laws that reduce production and pollution of plastics, end oil and gas drilling both onshore and on land, and protect our communities, waters, and watersheds from the climate crisis. Stay tuned for how YOU can help us get there.
UPDATE 10/5: Good news – Gov. Newsom signed SB 343, AB 1276, and AB 962 into law! Thanks for making your voice heard.
Action Alert! Support Heal the Bay’s top 3 California plastic-reduction bills. Call your reps and help get these environmental bills to the finish line. Learn about the bills, contact your representatives, and use our sample script below.
A few major plastic bills are up for a vote, and we need your help to urge your representatives to vote YES! This year, the California legislature introduced a suite of bills to fight plastic pollution called the Circular Economy Package. While not all of the bills have made it through the long and harrowing process, three are nearing the finish line and are priorities for Heal the Bay. These bills are heading to the floor for a vote, which means we only have a couple weeks left to get them passed! The bills each tackle plastic pollution in a unique way, so let’s break them down.
Senate Bill 343: The Truth in Environmental Advertising Act
Have you ever turned over a plastic cup or container to read the number on the bottom and noticed it’s encircled with a recycling “chasing arrows” symbol, only to then learn that item in fact could not be recycled? Us too, and it’s frustrating. This bill would make that illegal, and only permit the chasing arrows symbol to be used on items that are actually recyclable in California and never as part of a plastic resin identification code (those numbers that tell you what type of plastic the item is made from). SB 343 would help to clarify what items should go in the blue bin, reducing confusion among consumers, contamination, and waste volume while improving diversion rates, meaning less waste is sent to landfill and more is actually recycled.
Assembly Bill 1276: Disposable Foodware Accessories
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all begun relying much more heavily on takeout and delivery to feed ourselves and our loved ones while supporting local restaurants. The downside? Receiving disposable foodware accessories like cutlery, condiment packets, and straws that we don’t need and frequently end up in the trash without ever being used. These items, often made of single-use plastics, are clogging waste facilities and polluting our environment. AB 1276 would require that these food ware accessories only be provided upon explicit request of the customer, so you wouldn’t get them unless you ask.
Assembly Bill 962: California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act
What’s the best way to fight plastic pollution? Tackling the problem from the source. This bill focuses on replacing harmful pollution-causing disposable plastic items with sustainable reusable and refillable alternatives. AB 962 helps pave the way for returnable and refillable beverage bottles in California by allowing glass bottles to be washed and refilled by beverage companies instead of crushed and recycled into new bottles – a much less energy intensive process that encourages reuse and refill. The measure reduces waste and encourages the use of glass bottles over disposable plastic ones.
All of these bills will be up for a vote soon. Call your representatives and urge them to VOTE YES on SB 343, AB 1276, and AB 962.
“Hi, my name is __________ and I am a resident of __________ and a constituent of representative__________. As an active member of my community with concerns about plastic pollution, I urge you to vote YES on SB 343, AB 1276, and AB 962. As part of the Circular Economy Package, these bills will reduce plastic pollution in my community and protect my public health. Thank you for your time.”
Heal the Bay Intern, Yamileth Urias, explores the nuances of a classic environmental slogan.
As children, we are taught to reduce, reuse, and recycle. At some point in our lives, many forget about the first two R’s, reduce and reuse, and mostly rely on the last R– recycle. As plastic pollution becomes an increasingly alarming issue, we must not forget to reduce and reuse. Here is why that order matters.
How is plastic produced and why should we be worried?
We consume food and water in containers made from fossil fuels! Yes, that’s right. Plastic is made from oil and natural gas. Through polymerization, resins are created, which allows plastics to be molded and shaped under heat and pressure. This video further explains the plastic production process.
Oil and gas industries have only become more powerful in the last century since fossil fuels are crucial in the creation of plastics. Not only do we rely on oil and gas companies for transportation, energy, and heating, but also plastic. However, the fossil fuel industry has encountered a challenge — electric vehicles and renewable energy resources like solar power. As we become more aware of the exploitation of natural resources like fossil fuels, we have made changes to remedy the situation. With the rise of electric and hybrid vehicles and alternative energy sources, the demand for fossil fuel has decreased, causing oil and gas industries to turn to and invest more in new plastic production. New plastic production is cheaper than using recycled plastics due to weakened oil prices. According to a study by Carbon Tracker, the oil industry plans to spend $400 billion on new plastic and less than $2 billion in reducing plastic waste over the next five years.
The drastic gap in investments in virgin plastic and effort to reduce plastic waste has created a monster that is becoming more difficult to control. Corporations are producing more plastic despite knowing that most of it will not be recycled. According to a 2017 study, we have created 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste since 1950. Only 10% of all plastic waste has ever been recycled. This means that over 90% of plastic produced is waste that ends up polluting our environment, our water, and eventually items we consume. This is why using recycling as our only means to fight plastic pollution simply will not work.
Recycling allows for the continued creation of plastics. The best solution is to reduce plastic use in order to stop the harmful effects plastic has on us, our communities, and the environment. We need a permanent solution that will help us transition from relying on plastic to drastically reducing our plastic use.
There is simply too much plastic produced and we cannot recycle our way out of it. A significant amount of this plastic is single-use plastic that cannot be recycled. 99% of cutlery and plastic plates do not meet the standards to be recycled.
Most of the items we try to recycle are not recycled. Studies have found that only 9% of all plastics produced are recycled.
Plastics are not infinitely recyclable. They are downcycled, meaning it cannot be made into the same thing, unlike glass and aluminum. Each time material is repurposed, it becomes a lower quality that will eventually lose its ability to be recycled.
For these reasons, the best solution is to reduce our plastic use. One of the best ways is to reduce the use of single-use plastics. Out of approximately 9.2 billion tonnes of plastic produced, 40% are single-use products like plastic bags and cutlery. By reducing our use of plastic, we also reduce the demand for it. In order to fully make our efforts effective, we must reduce our individual plastic-use and pressure companies to change their harmful practices.
Reuse materials around the home
Our lives are not completely plastic-free. We all have plastic items in our homes, and the pandemic has only increased our plastic use. That is okay! If you must use packaging or single-use products, you can always choose a more eco-friendly option that is biodegradable. This includes FSC-certified paper, wheat straw or locally-sourced materials.
However, that may not always be an option. It is also important to point out that sustainable products can be expensive. Not everyone can afford to keep buying $50 reusable bottles and filters because the water in their neighborhood is not safe to drink. This is why reusing is the next best action to partake in. You can continue with your plastic-reduction efforts by reusing and repurposing plastics you currently own before disposing of them. This can be done by using a plastic tub of butter to store other food items in your fridge. Another popular usage for plastic containers includes storing away things around your homes like a sewing kit or hair ties and pins. Other items like old toothbrushes can be used as tools to clean hard-to-reach surfaces. There are many ways to get creative and upcycle plastic products you currently own.
Recycle when there is no other alternative
Simply because there are better alternatives to recycling does not mean that we should stop all recycling efforts. According to a study by Pew Trusts, the plastic in our oceans is expected to nearly triple from 11 million tonnes to 29 million tonnes in the next 20 years. Plastic pollution has rapidly increased over the years and it will only get worse in the next couple of decades. This means that over the next 20 summers, oceans will become increasingly more polluted affecting wildlife and the coastal environment as we know it. The plastic pollution crisis is so big that any effort is better than no effort.
It is also important to point out that the world is a unique situation that has disrupted plastic reduction efforts. People all over the world increased their plastic use due to the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 briefly helped the environment by reducing transportation emissions, but it also caused long-term damages with the massive increase in plastic use. Consumption of single-use plastic increased somewhere between 250-300% during COVID-19. Almost 30% of this spike in single-use plastic is attributed to personal protective equipment (PPE). There is nothing wrong with being cautious and looking out for one’s health, so if reducing or reusing plastic is not an option, the next best thing is to recycle when possible. With that in mind, it is crucial to practice plastic reduction efforts in a hierarchical order. Click here for more ideas on how to reuse and recycle items around your home.
One simple way to reduce plastic use starts with takeout. Next time you are ordering takeout, consider requesting no plastic cutlery or drinking your beverage without a straw and using utensils from home instead. You can also take action by supporting the takeout extras on-request initiative. Due to COVID-19, takeout orders have increased and so has the use of single-use plastic. Sign the petition asking legislators to support #SkipTheStuff. You can also take action by sending an email to DoorDash to #CutOutCutlery. Through this campaign, we can encourage food delivery apps to change their default plastic cutlery option and move to a request-based option.
For more guidance on how you can repurpose and recycle items around your home, conduct a waste audit. This guide on waste audits is the perfect way to reevaluate your home waste, plastic usage and find creative ways to repurpose items. It’s the perfect activity just in time for spring cleaning that will also keep you busy during the quarantine.
About the author
Yamileth is a graduating senior at the University of Southern California studying public relations and political science. Her internship with Heal the Bay communications encompasses branding, research and social media. Growing up in a coastal town sparked her passion for environmental conservation, environmental justice and marine life protection. In her free time, she enjoys experimenting with recipes, gardening and sewing.
We’re celebrating International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month by shining the spotlight on five environmentalists who inspire us.
Women of color are impacted by environmental issues like water pollution and climate change impacts at disproportionate rates as a result of systemic inequity and injustice.1 Racism and a lack of access to education, economic status, and health resources often leave women and people of color out of the conversations and decisions that impact them the most, specifically about land use, natural resources, and environmental policy.
Despite these challenges, women of color continue to create powerful and lasting change in their own communities and abroad.
We thank the environmentalists and activists who continue to fight for what is right despite facing opposition for their bold ideas and for simply being who they are. Women and girls are leaders in their communities and agents of change. Supporting and listening to them will benefit the health of our planet and people for generations to come.
Get to know five environmentalists who have an inspiring legacy of activism.
Wangari Maathai (1940 – 2011), Kenya
Founder of the Green Belt Movement, which has planted over 51 million trees, Professor Maathai focused on environmental conservation and women’s rights. She studied biology in her undergraduate and graduate school programs and later won the Nobel Peace Prize for her vast contributions to sustainable development.
Berta Cáceres was an indigenous environmental justice activist and grassroots leader who created the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH) in Honduras. She fought courageously against illegal and harmful mining and logging as well as the construction of a dam that would cut off water, food and medicine for the indigenous Lenca people. Cáceres Flores was tragically murdered in 2016, sparking international outrage. The Cáceres family continues to demand justice for this corrupt violation of human rights. 2
Isatou Ceesay is known as the Queen of Recycling in The Gambia, and rightfully so. Though she was kept from finishing school, she created the Njai Recycling and Income Generation Group, which turns plastic bag waste into purses, creating revenue streams for local women. Ceesay also educates and empowers women through environmental advocacy.
Winona LaDuke (b. 1959), White Earth Indian Reservation
Founder of the White Earth Land Recovery Project and Honor the Earth, LaDuke is an environmentalist and political activist with Indigenous communities. She focuses on sustainable development, renewable energy, climate change, and environmental justice. The White Earth Land Recovery Project is one of the largest non-profit organizations in the United States dedicated to recovering original land and maintaining tribal food, water, and energy rights. Follow Winona on Twitter and Instagram.
Vanessa Nakate founded The Rise Up Movement and uses her voice and platform to share stories about activists in Africa who are striking due to inaction against the climate crisis. Recently, she spoke at the COP25 event in Spain (the United Nations Climate Change Conference) and joined dozens of youth climate activists from around the world to publish a letter to attendees of the World Economic Forum in Davos urging them to take immediate steps to prevent further harm. Follow Vanessa on Twitter and Instagram.
About the author: Mariana Estrada is a digital advocacy intern at Heal the Bay. She grew up in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles where she enjoys a lively community of close-knit families and great food. She became interested in environmental issues like air quality at an unusually young age due to living in the city. Estrada’s area of focus is combining humanities and environmental issues to create effective and meaningful storytelling that renders real results. She studies English Literature and double-minors in Environmental Systems and Society and Environmental Engineering at UCLA.
1 Gender and climate change-induced migration: Proposing a framework for analysis. Author Namrata Chindarkar. Published by School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park, USA. Published on 22 June 2012. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/254496452_Gender_and_climate_change-induced_migration_Proposing_a_framework_for_analysis 2 Berta Cáceres: 2015 Goldman Prize Recipient South and Central America. Published by The Goldman Environmental Prize. Retrieved from https://www.goldmanprize.org/recipient/berta-caceres/
Funcionarios electos de Los Angeles están tomando acción legislativa para reducir la basura que se genera con la comida para llevar tras un gran incremento en el consumo del plástico de un solo uso. ¿Pero qué significa “Deja el desperdicio”? ¿Y cómo ayuda a luchar contra la contaminación por plástico? Vamos a verlo.
Deja el desperdicio es el último empujón legislativo de Heal the Bay junto a la coalición Reusable LA. #DejaElDesperdicio requeriría que los extras de la comida para llevar y a domicilio — como los utensilios de un solo uso, popotes, condimentos, servilletas y demás — fuesen facilitados a petición del usuario. Si los necesita, los puede tener. Y si no, no hace falta desperdiciar.
El consumo de plástico de un solo uso se ha disparado debido al COVID-19, incluyendo aquí en Los Angeles, donde nuestros queridos restaurantes locales se han visto forzados a depender principalmente de los pedidos para llevar y a domicilio. El consumo de plásticos de un solo uso se ha incrementado entre un 250% y un 300% desde que comenzó la pandemia, con un aumento de un 30% de basura atribuido en parte a utensilios de usar y tirar. En toda la nación, billones de accesorios para la comida se tiran cada año, muchos sin haberse utilizado siquiera. (Muchos de nosotros incluso los guardamos en el temido cajón de los extras, esperando utilizarlos algún día).
La amplia mayoría de estos objetos de un solo uso no se pueden reciclar. Suman a la crisis de basura plástica, ensucian nuestros vecindarios, ríos, el océano, y atascan los vertederos. El uso de combustibles fósiles para producir objetos de plástico que ni siquiera se usan es lo último que necesitamos durante una crisis climática. Estos efectos también presentan problemas de justicia medioambiental, con las comunidades en primera línea sufriendo desproporcionadamente por el cambio climático, la extracción de crudo, y la incineración asociada a plásticos de un solo uso.
Heal the Bay y Reusable LA están abogando por legislar #DejaElDesperdicio en la ciudad y el condado de Los Angeles. En Enero de 2021, los miembros del consejo de la ciudad de Los Angeles Paul Koretz y Paul Krekorian introdujeron una moción para un borrador de ley para #DejaElDesperdicio. Requeriría que en los casos de comida para llevar, servicio a domicilio o servicios de entrega a domicilios de terceros, todos los accesorios estuvieran disponibles únicamente bajo petición. La Junta de Supervisores del Condado de Los Angeles siguió el ejemplo y en Febrero de 2021 pasó una moción similar de forma unánime tras ser introducida por Sheila Kuehl, miembro de la junta.
Esta legislación reconoce que los miembros de la comunidad pueden necesitar pajitas/ popotes/pajillas, utensilios y / u otros accesorios para alimentos de un solo uso. Es crucial que los restaurantes y las aplicaciones de entrega de terceros promuevan y brinden opciones para todos. Este modelo “a pedido” está estructurado intencionalmente para cumplir con todos los requisitos y adaptaciones de la ADA para garantizar un acceso equitativo para disfrutar fácilmente de comidas en el lugar, comida para llevar o entregas en los restaurantes de Los Ángeles. Según esta ordenanza, las empresas pueden proporcionar accesorios para alimentos a los clientes que los soliciten.
Restaurantes y aplicaciones de entrega a domicilio deberían por defecto, no entregar accesorios de un solo uso para los pedidos, a menos que el cliente los solicite. Cambiar a este modelo de accesorios “bajo pedido” elimina basura innecesaria y ahorra dinero a los establecimientos. Los Angeles ha hecho esto antes con los popotes bajo pedido. En un momento en el que los negocios pequeños y los restaurantes están luchando por mantenerse a flote, esta es una solución simple para recortar costes excesivos y contaminación por plástico. Apoyamos estas ordenanzas porque son una solución donde todos ganan, las comunidades de LA, los negocios y el medioambiente.
Contamos con su apoyo para pasar esta ordenanza, así que pase a la acción mediante los enlaces de aquí abajo y manténgase a la escucha para más novedades de #DejaElDesperdicio.
Q: How did you work with Heal the Bay on the book?
A: I first reached out to Heal the Bay in early 2019. I had written The Big Beach Cleanup and was looking to connect with experts regarding fact checking recycling and ocean cleanupfacts. I live in Los Angeles and am familiar with the important work that Heal the Bay does to protect our oceans, so I decided to ask for their help. Nancy Shrodes, the Associate Director of Policy & Outreach, kindly agreed to review my manuscript and offer her feedback. Since then numerous staff members at Heal the Bay have continued to offer assistance, including providing input on additional educational materials for the book as well as generously offering to do a live animal feeding at The Big Beach Cleanup virtual launch event!
Q: What inspired you to write about a beach cleanup?
A: One day while walking with my children, I stopped to pick up a piece of trash that was in our way and toss it in a nearby trashcan. Throwing away that piece of trash sparked endless questions from my ever-curious children. They wanted to know where the trash had come from and how it got there in the first place. We ended up in big conversations around pollution and doing our part to protect the planet.It was on that walk that I decided to write an ocean advocacy story featuring little hands joining together to make big change. I went home that day and wrote the first draft of what would eventually become The Big Beach Cleanup!
Q: What was the most interesting thing you learned while working on this book? A: Honestly the most interesting thing I found is how immune we can become to the things that are right in front of us. I have lived and walked around Los Angeles for a long time. I have also cared about the planet and my environmental footprint for a long time, but it wasn’t until I began working on this book that my eyes really opened to how prevalent our pollution problem is and how frequently it is right in front of me on a daily basis. There is no shortage of trash in Los Angeles, not only on our beaches but right on the streets in my very own neighborhood. On my regular walk with my kids we always find trash, even if we have been picking up trash on that same walk the day before. Things get dropped, trash bags aren’t tied properly and more and more we are finding discarded masks and disposable containers. We really need everyone to join together and make conscious changes in order to tackle this growing problem.
Q: Has the book inspired you to make any single-use plastic swaps at home?
A: Writing this book has encouraged my family to look around our home and evaluate our daily waste. We have been replacing individually wrapped items with bulk sizes and make an effort to use refillable containers whenever possible, we have tried to make choices that avoid plastic containers and to purchase less ‘stuff’ (toys, general excess) overall.
Q: What do you hope readers will take away from the book? A: My hope is that The Big Beach Cleanup shows readers that big changes begin with small steps. I hope that readers are inspired to think about the changes they want to see in the world, to know that they can make a difference, and are encouraged to join together with those around them to create those changes. I hope they walk away knowing that their hands matter and are needed.
Q: What is your favorite beach in California? A: Every summer since my husband was little his family has spent time in Coronado. When I met my husband, I was warmly welcomed into this tradition and I look forward to spending time at the beach on Coronado island every year. Locally though we love to visit Will Rogers State Beach as it is close to where my in–laws live and they are often able to join us there!
CHARLOTTE OFFSAY was born in England, grew up in Boston, and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two small children. Through her work, Charlotte hopes to make children laugh, to inspire curiosity, and to create a magical world her readers can lose themselves in time and time again.
Charlotte’s debut picture book, The Big Beach Cleanup, illustrated by Kate Rewse will be published by Albert Whitman in Spring 2021, followed by How to Return a Monster, illustrated by Rea Zhai releasing Fall 2021 with Beaming Books. A Grandma’s Magic, illustrated by Asa Gilland will be published by Doubleday Books for Young Readers in Spring 2022.
Elected officials in Los Angeles are taking legislative action to reduce takeout trash after a steep increase in single-use plastic consumption. But what does it mean to “Skip the Stuff”? And how does it help fight plastic pollution? Let’s dive in.
Skip the Stuff is the latest legislative push through Heal the Bay’s plastics work with the Reusable LA coalition. #SkipTheStuff would require takeout and delivery “extras” — like single-use utensils, straws, condiments, napkins, and more — to be provided only upon request. If you need them, you can get them. If you don’t, no need to waste.
The use of single-use plastic has skyrocketed due to COVID-19, including here in Los Angeles, where our beloved local restaurants are forced to rely primarily on takeout and delivery. Consumption of single-use plastics has increased by 250% – 300% since the pandemic began, with a 30% increase in waste attributed in part to disposable foodware. Nationwide, billions of food accessories are thrown away each year, many of which aren’t even used once. (Many of us even keep them in that dreaded drawer of takeout “extras”, hoping that they’ll be used one day.)
The vast majority of these single-use items cannot be recycled. They add to the plastic pollution crisis, litter our neighborhoods, rivers, and ocean, and clog already overfilled landfills. Using fossil fuels to produce plastic items that aren’t even used is the last thing we need during a climate crisis. These impacts also present significant environmental justice issues, with frontline and fenceline communities bearing a disproportionate burden of the impacts from climate change, fossil fuel extraction, and incineration associated with single-use waste. Heal the Bay and Reusable LA are advocating for #SkipTheStuff legislation in both Los Angeles City and Los Angeles County. In January 2021, Los Angeles City Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian introduced a motion to draft city-wide legislation to #SkipTheStuff. It would require all foodware accessories to be available only upon request for takeout, delivery, and third-party delivery apps. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors followed suit in February 2021 and unanimously passed a similar motion after it was introduced by Boardmember Sheila Kuehl.
This legislation recognizes that community members may need single-use straws, utensils, and/or other foodware accessories. It is crucial that restaurants and third-party delivery apps readily promote and provide accommodations for all. This “on request” model is intentionally structured to meet all ADA requirements and accommodations to ensure equitable access to easily enjoy dine-in, takeout, or delivery from LA eateries. Under this ordinance, businesses may provide foodware accessories to customers who request them. Restaurants and food delivery apps should default to no single-use accessories for orders, unless the customer requests them. Switching to foodware accessories “upon request” reduces unnecessary waste and saves restaurants money. Los Angeles has done this before with straws on request. At a time when local restaurants and small businesses are struggling to stay open, this is a simple solution to cut down on both excess costs and plastic pollution. We support these ordinances as a win-win for our LA communities, businesses, and environment. We’re counting on your support to get this ordinance passed, so take action below and stay tuned for updates on how you can #SkipTheStuff.
Failure is not defeat when we hold ourselves accountable, learn, improve, and move forward together. Our Science and Policy team highlights some environmental policy woes in Part 2 below, and in Part 1 we reflect on wins from the past year.
In a year like 2020, it is worth the time to celebrate our environmental policy wins. But it may be even more important to recognize our woes, setbacks, and challenges. Failure is a part of life, and it may be painful at times, but it does not mean defeat. It is an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to find ways to improve our work moving forward. Let’s reflect on three of our 2020 environmental policy woes, and set some new goals for 2021.
California Environmental Legislation
It was a challenging year in the CA legislature. With critical COVID-19 relief bills understandably taking priority, many environmental bills that were expected to pass this year did not make it through. One major loss was Senate Bill 54 and Assembly Bill 1080, twin bills also known as the California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, which would have set a goal of reducing single-use plastic waste by 75% by 2030. Following heavy and expensive lobbying campaigns from the plastics industry, these bills narrowly missed passing on the final day of the legislative season in August.
While this was a devastating blow, there were also wins in plastic pollution reduction policy this year. Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 793into law, making California the first state in the country to set minimum levels for recycled content in beverage containers. California residents also got the Plastics Free California Initiativeon the 2022 ballot. If it passes, this initiative would be the most comprehensive plastic pollution reduction policy in the nation. Heal the Bay is not giving up the fight and we are ready to push for strong plastics legislation in the coming year. Sign up to learn more on this from Reusable LA.
Offshore DDT Dumping
The recent discovery (as reported by the LA Times) of a very large number of dumped barrels of DDT off the coast of Los Angeles was a shock to us and many others who have been working on issues surrounding DDT contamination for over 30 years. We knew about the other large site contaminated by DDT and PCBs on the Palos Verde Shelf, but this new discovery of a potentially similar sized underwater DDT dump was devastating, to say the least. The news left us with many questions. Who is responsible and how can we hold corporate polluters accountable? What is the impact to marine ecosystems and human health? Can this pollution be cleaned up?
Heal the Bay is currently meeting with elected officials, government agencies, and partners to push for increased scientific understanding of the problem, increased education and outreach particularly to communities at risk from contaminated fish, and increased accountability and transparency.
Stormwater Regulation with the MS4 Permit
The Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit regulates stormwater pollution. The LA County MS4 Permit has been around since 1990, and yet stormwater is still the leading source of water pollution. The lack of accountability in the last MS4 Permit has allowed permittees to fall woefully behind schedule in reducing this pollution. Although renewal of this critical MS4 Permit is already 3 years behind schedule, adoption was again delayed until 2021. Unfortunately, permittees have dominated this process, demanding a weaker permit at the expense of our surface water quality, and so far the Los Angeles Regional Water Board has been receptive to their grumbles.
Heal the Bay’s Take LA by Storm campaign launched this year to provide support for new advocates to engage in this permit process, too. Voices from respected NGOs across LA County attended the Regional Board’s October MS4 Workshop; and in December, 34 NGOs and 19 individual community members weighed in through written comments. We are starting to shift the narrative as the Board hears from communities, but there is still a lot to do before permit adoption in summer 2021.
Heal the Bay will continue to advocate for a strong permit and provide better support to LA communities.Sign up to Take LA by Storm, and together we can hold permittees accountable and reduce stormwater pollution.
As the year comes to a close, we feel energized for what’s ahead. 2021 will not be business as usual. There is too much at stake. Now is our chance to take bold action for present and future generations.
Climate change must be slowed or much will be lost. Heal the Bay pushes government leaders to protect water and biodiversity from the San Gabriel Mountains to the Santa Monica Bay.
Clean water and safe, accessible open space are fundamental for public health. Heal the Bay fights for strong permits that require green solutions to our local pollution problems.
The toxic legacy of plastic production and waste impacts our everyday life. Heal the Bay supports a ban on disposables that harm our neighborhoods and wildlife habitats.
A better world is possible when we empower our youth. Heal the Bay gives students the tools to advocate for their future by testifying at hearings and writing letters to elected officials.
We must recover environmental policy rollbacks. Heal the Bay has the expertise to regain ocean, river, and wetland protections, and solve today’s problems by upholding the Clean Water Act.
We are living in a critical decade for our planet. The hard work in front of us won’t happen by itself. Your donation to Heal the Bay supports our mission of making the coastal waters and watersheds in Southern California safe, healthy, and clean through science, education, community action, and advocacy.
Amidst all the challenges, you can trust that Heal the Bay is here for good. We will not stop until we succeed.