Non-biodegradable garbage threatens more and more marine and coastal ecosystems as it continues to accumulate in the world’s oceans. State Assemblymember Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara), along with the other members of the Assembly Coastal Caucus, announced at a Capitol press conference on Wednesday that they have introduced legislation to cleanup the oceans. “Ocean litter is not just a blight on our beaches,” Nava said in a press release. “It is detrimental to ocean ecosystems and is a huge burden on state and local coastal governments.”
Nava and Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) introduced AB 1358, a bill that will prohibit single-use Styrofoam packaging for take-out food. The Food and Drug Administration recently limited the use of Styrofoam in bottled drinking water because of its potential carcinogenic and neurotoxic effects. The bill is intended to encourage the use of sustainable, recyclable, and biodegradable alternatives to Styrofoam.
Approximately 80 percent of marine debris, such as Styrofoam take-out food containers, plastic bags, and disposable packaging, originally came from a land-based source. When it rains in California, garbage in the streets and sidewalks of coastal cities is swept into storm drains that discharge into the nearest waterway and eventually flows to the ocean. According to the California Coastal Commission, plastic comprises 90 percent of the floating marine debris and 60-80 percent of marine debris overall. Plastic waste is particularly harmful to marine life because it is durable, buoyant, and concentrates toxins present in the ocean. Plastic marine debris adversely affects at least 267 species around the world. Marine mammals as well as seabirds and sea turtles starve, suffocate, or drown after they ingest, get entangled in, or infected by plastic waste floating in the oceans.
In addition to being detrimental to marine life and human health, marine debris also burdens California economically, costing the state tens of millions of dollars. Caltrans says it spends $55 million to pick up trash that might otherwise wash into the ocean, and the County of Los Angeles Department of Public works spends $18 million annually to remove and prevent litter.
Also today, Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica) introduced a bill to reduce plastic-bag litter by charging consumers a uniform, statewide 25-cent fee on all single-use bags at certain supermarkets, pharmacies, and convenience stores starting in 2010. Lori Saldana (D-San Diego) introduced a bill to reduce bottle-cap waste, and Wes Chesbro (D-Eureka) introduced a bill that gives producers of products incentives to reduce packaging.