In a recent letter to the South Pasadena City Council, ActiveSGV, a non-profit project that partners with community groups to support a more sustainable, equitable and livable San Gabriel Valley, saluted local efforts to reduce single-use plastics within the city.
The letter, penned by ActiveSGV Executive Director David Diaz, commended the community-driven approach currently under consideration by the city’s Natural Resources and Environmental Commission that includes amending the polystyrene ordinance to ban all single-use plastic products (unless they’re compostable) in restaurants, at the farmers’ market, in food service and in city facilities.
The city is also considering forming a task force with the South Pasadena Unified School District to eliminate use of single-use plastic on school campuses and sporting events, developing educational messages through programs, publication, social media and advertising to residents on how to minimize plastic use, and to work with other cities and organizations to get local merchants and their parent companies to phase down plastic packaging.
It was noted in the letter that the plastic packaging decrease can be accomplished by educating customers on the benefits or reusable containers, creating refill stations and bulk product bins, providing compostable plastic bags for produce and supporting research and development of environmentally sound packaging materials as alternatives to today’s single-use plastic materials.
Wesley Reutimann, special programs director of ActiveSGV, told the Review that the organization “wholeheartedly supports” the steps that South Pasadena residents and city officials are taking in reducing single-use plastics within the city.
“Local jurisdictions have a lot of power to take more robust measures at the local community level, and oftentimes that’s what propels the state to then follow suit,” said Reutimann. “Communities often lead on these issues.”
When China drastically cut back its imports of plastic waste to recycle last year, there weren’t many alternative markets where U.S. waste could land, according to Reutimann. As a result, he said the “recycling market in California and the United States has largely imploded,” creating a pressing need for cities to reconsider how they view disposable plastics.
“As a result, cities are now having to pay to have what they use to get paid for … to have it incinerated or landfilled,” said Reutimann.
“Most of us think when we’re throwing things in our recycling bin, whether it’s cardboard, paper, recyclable plastic, that they’re actually being recycled, but the sad reality is that almost everything is ending up in the landfill at the moment.
“The wheels have fallen off the recycling market in California,” Reutimann added. “Even with bottles, you see hundreds of local recycling centers have closed down in the last six months. It’s very disappointing for anyone who cares about the environment and has worked and supported recycling efforts and zero-waste efforts for years, if not decades, to see this is where we are now in 2019. We recognize that it’s forcing us to come to grips with how much single-use we have and we need to start going mainstream.”
Reutimann said he hopes additional measures can be taken in the realm of compostable material, including developing more regional composting facilities and zero-waste planning efforts.
“If we have more compostable material that’s entering our waste stream, that can be separated out and then composted and reused,” said Reutimann.
He said ActiveSGV looks forward to the continued discussions and efforts of the city’s Natural Resources and Environmental Commission.
“We’ll certainly be following to see what direction they take it in, and hopefully be able to engage again as things move along,” said Reutimann.