California’s New Plastic Reduction Rules Aren’t “Tough”—and Don’t Go Far Enough

On June 30, 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 54 (SB 54), a new state law supposedly designed to significantly reduce plastic pollution. However, many environmental and social justice groups have mixed feelings and some opposed SB 54—reflecting the challenging regulatory landscape within which plastic legislation is formulated, and industries’ outsized lobbying efforts which too often take center stage over human and environmental health.

Known as the Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act, SB 54 has been touted by lawmakers, some nonprofit organizations, and the media as the nation’s “toughest” set of rules aimed at regulating plastic packaging and single-use plastic foodware to date. However, that description misses the mark.

Judith Enck, President of Beyond Plastics and former EPA Regional Administrator, explains that SB 54 problematically:

  • Contains many loopholes for continued plastic use and production.
  • Is built on the foundation of plastic recycling, which has proven unsuccessful.
  • Does not explicitly prohibit plastic burning to be counted as recycling.
  • Does not ban polystyrene, even though it cannot be recycled.
  • Does not require that toxic chemicals such as PFAS be eliminated from packaging.
  • Inappropriately gives vast authority to packaging companies to self-regulate.

Each of these points is discussed in more detail below. Although SB 54 has been portrayed as having wide and bipartisan support, its lack of teeth and the speed at which it seemed to suddenly take shape suggests it’s been rather one-sidedly designed by the very industries it is supposed to regulate.

The Problems with SB 54

SB 54 could have been a comprehensive, useful piece of legislation—and it still could be, with heavy amendments that address the following key concerns:

SB 54 contains loopholes for continued plastic use and production.Under SB 54, plastic makers in California are required to reduce the use of plastics in their single-use products, including packaging and foodware, by just 10 percent in 5 years, and 25 percent in 10 years. The legislation encourages companies to make plastic reductions through redesigning packaging and reducing packaging size, utilizing non-plastic packaging materials, or making their products reusable or refillable. However, we’ve already seen in California and other states how loosely defined regulatory terms such as “reusable” and “refillable” have been stretched by industries to apply to toxic, non-recyclable plastics—which they continue to produce in prolific, harmful quantities.

SB 54 is built on the foundation of plastic recycling, which has proven unsuccessful.Another core component of the new legislation is to boost plastic recycling from its current rate of just 5 percent to 65 percent by 2032. Such an increase is effectively impossible given the fact that industries do not design plastic to be recycled—and in fact industries have used the false promise of recycling to perpetuate plastics production. Historically more than 90 percent of plastics have been dumped in landfills or the environment, or incinerated.

SB 54 does not explicitly prohibit plastic burning to be counted as recycling.What’s more, while SB 54 defines recycling as not encompassing incineration of plastic waste, it does not explicitly prohibit other types of plastic burning that are just as hazardous. Such ambiguity effectively greenlights industries’ continued use and likely ramping up of problematic polluting, climate-warming plastic burning—which they will undoubtedly write off as “recycling” as they’ve long been doing.

SB 54 does not ban polystyrene, even though it cannot be recycled.

The legislation does not explicitly ban sale and production of expanded polystyrene (EPS, aka Styrofoam). Instead, it requires that polystyrene become recyclable, which is highly unlikely. Advocates anticipate a series of challenges from polystyrene manufacturers that will drag on for years.

We celebrate the great promise of SB 54 for California and beyond—and we know that more work needs to be done. Surfrider will continue pushing for a statewide comprehensive ban on EPS, ensuring that advanced plastic burning (also known as chemical recycling) is not allowed in the state and supporting our allies striving for environmental justice.

Surfrider Foundation

SB 54 does not require that toxic chemicals such as PFAS be eliminated from packaging.Plastic’s petrochemical ingredients are mixed with any combination of more than 10,000 chemicals, thousands of which have been identified in the European Union as toxic, persistent, and/or bioaccumulating (hazardously accumulating in our bodies). One particularly risky class of chemicals commonly found in plastic are called PFAS (also called “forever” or “everywhere” chemicals)—which are extremely prevalent in plastics and other consumer products.

The health consequences of PFAS exposure are serious and far ranging, and include elevated blood pressure, infertility, thyroid problems, and several types of cancer. Despite their dangers, PFAS chemicals remain largely unregulated (some states in the U.S., such as Maine and Colorado, have made efforts to regulate products containing PFAS, as have some European countries). However, it’s critically important that PFAS and other toxic chemicals be eliminated from industrial activities and consumer products in the U.S. and globally.

SB 54 inappropriately gives vast authority to packaging companies to self-regulate.

SB 54 is set to establish a new private Producer Responsibility Organization run by the same companies that have created the problem. The plastic producers are required to create a fund that collects $5 billion over 10 years to clean up plastic pollution, particularly in underserved frontline communities. BIPOC, rural, and low-income people are disproportionately harmed by the myriad forms of plastic, chemical, and other hazards linked to plastics production, transportation, use, and disposal. Yet the fund is focused on treating the symptoms of continued plastic production instead of addressing the problem at the source by seriously restricting industries’ plastic production.

“It’s giving them the keys to the car. “Would you let the tobacco industry oversee anti-smoking initiatives?” Judith Enck recently told the LA Times, referring to SB 54.

Industry Opposes Strong Regulations Needed to Tackle Plastic Pollution

While the public is taking an increasingly favorable position on plastic regulations, the plastic and petrochemical industries have publicly spoken out against strict regulations that put power in the people’s hands. In California, the American Chemistry Council has threatened launching a “strong opposition campaign” against the “California Plastic Waste Reduction Regulations Initiative” ballot measure—which it has pressured petitioners to withdraw, as it actively worked to water down the efficacy of SB 54. The ballot measure would have banned EPS foam, among other measures to eliminate plastic pollution through required industry action and responsibility.

In 2021, nearly 900,000 people in California voted to put the California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act on the ballot in November 2022. The ballot measure, which would have held corporations financially responsible for the plastic they produce among other proven ways to reduce plastic pollution, is a more effective and comprehensive plan to curtail the production of single-use plastic packaging and foodware in California. As part of negotiations among lawmakers, environmentalists, and the plastics and petrochemical industries, when SB 54 passed, the California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Act was kicked off the ballot.

While lawmakers and media outlets champion SB 54 in California, the plastics and petrochemical industries only plan to ramp up plastic production into the future. Currently, the plastics and petrochemical industries produce about 400 million metric tons of plastic per year; that number is expected to increase to 1.2 billion metric tons by 2060. Clearly their ambitions are at odds with this new regulation and the best interests of the public and underserved communities in particular.

SB 54 Must Be Strengthened to Be Effective

Plastic Pollution Coalition supports legislative and regulatory solutions that address the plastic pollution crisis at the source, reduce plastic production and use, center environmental justice, hold corporations accountable through extended producer responsibility (EPR), and policy that supports a regenerative circular economy free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts. While it’s excellent to see lawmakers pushing forth legislation to address plastic pollution, it is critical to support the passage of stronger, more effective legislation. SB 54 in its current form is not strong enough.

Just as we have mandatory fuel efficiency standards for cars, we need strong environmental standards for packaging. While I appreciate the intentions that went into passing the California Extended Producer Responsibility bill into law, the new law misses the mark on many key points. EPR laws should require that packaging be eliminated, refillable or reusable at a 50% rate over 10 years. The foundation of any packaging law should require the actual reduction of all packaging.

Judith Enck, President of Beyond Plastics and former EPA Regional Administrator

In New York State, the recently introduced Assembly Bill 10185 provides an example of an effective EPR bill which takes the aforementioned considerations into mind and addresses them in a common-sense manner, requiring the State to enact and enforce companies’ plastics reduction efforts.

Ideally, amendments to SB 54 would implement strategies that more significantly and rapidly reduce plastic and other types of packaging, clarify murky points in the present legislation that can be exploited by industries, and include strict enforcement of producer responsibility for plastic pollution, among other key measures.

In the meantime, the passage of yet another industry-friendly piece of legislation leaves people and our planet vulnerable to continued harm from the plastics and petrochemical industries—and wastes taxpayer time, money, and effort that could be spent on real solutions.

Company Sets a Higher Standard for the Health & Beauty Industry 

By Joshua Scott Onysko, Founder and CEO of Pangea Organics

Last year, my organic body- and skincare company Pangea Organics went plastic free! While many health and beauty businesses are still wrapping their products in plastics, at Pangea we have transitioned to recyclable aluminum and glass, and compostable wood pulp. We mark our products with a small sea turtle icon, indicating they are completely plastic free, and thus compatible with #LifeAfterPlastic.

Inspired by Sea Turtles

My connection to sea turtles is personal: When I was 19 years old, I moved to Costa Rica and Nicaragua to work with a conservation team on the Caribbean coast, and we’d stay up all night to guard egg-laying sea turtles, protecting them from poachers. I’ve also been a longtime scuba diver and seeing plastic pollution in our oceans entangling the inhabitants was (and still is) devastating to me.

Sea turtles are harmed by plastic items people use everyday, including plastic packaging and other single-use plastic products like straws, face masks, and bags. Plastic is a physical danger to sea turtles, causing entanglement and entrapment, and choking and bodily blockages. But plastic is also a chemical danger to sea turtles, exposing them to a constant stream of toxic chemicals, with which plastic is made and which leach out into nature and living bodies.

Our Transition to Plastic-Free Packaging

At Pangea, we hold ourselves to a standard of continuously raising the bar to push for real change in the beauty industry. Over the past year, we transitioned Pangea (as well as our sister brand, Alpine Provisions) to completely plastic-free packaging to hold our organic, fairly sourced, and cruelty free body- and skincare products. 

The transition to plastic-free packaging was a significant investment for us to make, and we have paid attention to every detail—down to the custom aluminum cap on our tubes. The caps are a first-to-market innovation, two-and-a-half years in the making. All of our secondary packaging is also fully recyclable and/or compostable; the molded fiber clamshells used on all our glass bottles are made of wood pulp and completely compostable.

The Problem with Plastics

In my opinion, every company should be working to eliminate plastics from their businesses. More than 400 million metric tons of new plastic are produced globally each year. Instead of being truly recycled, about 79% of plastic has been historically dumped in landfills and the natural environment, about 12% has been burned (incinerated), and much plastic is shipped “away” to become someone else’s problem. Most often, plastic waste is sent to BIPOC, rural, or low-income communities. Plastic is not truly recycled like other materials: We need to refill, reuse, repair, share, and enact and enforce legislation that holds the plastics and petrochemical industries accountable for the pollution they have created.

Building an Eco-Conscious Company

It’s been my lifelong dream to build a health and beauty brand with the highest quality clean ingredients, and support small organic farmers around the world. When I was young, my mom kept a coffee-table book about organic ingredients. One day, it inspired us to make a small batch of organic soaps by hand together, out of our garage. We started selling the soaps in our local farmers markets, and to our delight, they continually sold out.

This organic soap making experience led me to start researching the health and beauty industry, and I decided to travel the world. On these travels, I began to build relationships and a vast network of organic farmers in over 50 regions. After two years of traveling, I knew the business I wanted to build needed to support small, organic, regenerative farms with fair labor practices.

Meaningful change can start with making one informed, conscious decision. I want to inspire all industries to put the Earth and our health ahead of profit and start to rethink and redesign how we package our products. And I want consumers to know that they can be empowered by their choices, including the purchase of high quality health and beauty products that do not contain toxins or plastics. 

How You Can Help

People can be a part of solutions by investing in reusable, refillable, and truly recyclable plastic-free products. Give Pangea a try! We hope consumers and brands alike will join us in our #LifeAfterPlastic mission. We are strongly aligned with the work of Plastic Pollution Coalition, and are proud Plastic Pollution Coalition Business Members. We know change starts with information and education, and people who are passionate about a cause.

This World Turtle Day, we’re bringing attention to the sea turtle icon we place on our plastic-free packaging as a way for us to educate and encourage conversations about the impacts of plastic pollution, which are vast. Not only do plastics harm turtles, but all life on Earth. It’s more important now than ever before to make safe, healthy, and affordable plastic-free products widely available. Pangea, our name, is symbolic of our vision: Bringing the world back together again.

To make it easier for consumers to find eco-friendly businesses, Yelp announced today it has partnered with Plastic Pollution Coalition to bring new searchable attributes onto the Yelp platform, including “Plastic-free packaging,” “Provides reusable tableware,” “Bring your own container allowed,” “Compostable containers available,” and “EV charging station available.”

Yelp users can find the sustainability attributes on business pages listed under the “Amenities and more” section on Yelp.com or the “Info” section in Yelp’s iOS or Android app, as well as highlighted on business listings in applicable search results.

The new Yelp sustainability attributes will allow people to more easily find eateries, bars, and cafes that are plastic free and support our values of thriving communities and a healthy, livable planet. We’re grateful Yelp is using its platform in this way and we’re excited the new attributes will help more sustainable businesses stand out for their green practices.

Dianna Cohen, Co-Founder and CEO of Plastic Pollution Coalition
Eco-friendly-Attributes-on-iOS_Restaurants Yelp


In addition to the new eco-friendly attributes, existing relevant attributes, such as “Bike parking” and “Vegan,” will also be searchable and highlighted in Yelp search results and business pages. 

Business owners can add the new attributes to their Yelp Page for free by logging into their Yelp for Business account and editing their “Business Information” section. Yelp is also surveying consumers to inform these attributes through the “Update the community” questions on Yelp business pages.

Helping Businesses Become More Sustainable

Yelp is also introducing a new Sustainability Resource Hub for businesses to help provide business owners with the tools they need to implement eco-friendly practices. The hub provides access to information from environmental nonprofits including Plastic Pollution Coalition, along with Coalition members and partners Upstream, Reusable LA, Surfrider Foundation, ReThink Disposable, and Food Rescue Hero.

Yelp’s collection of resources provides tools to help businesses effectively communicate to consumers how they’re giving back to the environment, learn how to adopt more sustainable business practices, and get inspired by the efforts of other local businesses like theirs. 

Plastic Pollution Coalition’s Plastic-Free Eateries Guide is another helpful resource for businesses looking to shift away from single-use plastic and toward better options.

Meeting Consumer Demand for More Eco-Friendly Options

Yelp reports that users are increasingly looking for more eco-friendly options on the platform, saying searches for “plant based” have increased an average of 56% each year from 2018 to 2021, and searches for “EV charging” have increased an average of 41% each year. 

Today more than ever, consumers are seeking businesses that prioritize sustainability to help reduce their environmental harm. Adopting more eco-friendly business practices and consumer habits have never been more important, which is why we’re working with Plastic Pollution Coalition and others to double down on our commitment to sustainability this Earth Day.

Akhil Kuduvalli Ramesh, VP of Consumer Product at Yelp

Upcoming Events on April 21, 2022

Yelp for Restaurants will highlight industry-focused content for restaurant owners interested in sustainability, as well as host a virtual Town Hall on Thursday, April 21 featuring the Sustainable Development Goal 2 Advocacy Hub. Sign up.

Yelp will also host a panel discussion on sustainability for employees and members of the public on April 21 at 10 am PST. The panel will be moderated by Amy Sezak, SVP, Corporate Communications, and will feature Dianna Cohen, Co-Founder and CEO of Plastic Pollution Coalition, Jackie Nuñez, Founder of The Last Plastic Straw and Advocacy & Engagement Manager at Plastic Pollution Coalition, Jennifer Savage of Surfrider‘s Plastic Pollution Initiative, and Samantha Sommer, Upstream‘s Director of Business Innovation. Sign up.

Happy Earth Month! This month, we at Plastic Pollution Coalition are spotlighting members with innovative solutions to plastic pollution. First up, is Coalition member business Plaine Products. Founded by two sisters, Lindsey and Alison Delaplaine, Plaine Products began with a dream to have less plastic waste in the world. Today, they run a successful refill-based business. Read on for our Q&A with CEO Lindsey McCoy and learn how the system work and about their new unscented line.

What was the inspiration for starting Plaine Products?

For 10 years I lived in The Bahamas doing environment education work. On a small island there’s no infrastructure to insulate you from the piles of plastic we are creating. You see plastic bags, bottles, and flip flops on the beaches, in the water, spilling out of the landfills, along the side of the road. There’s even a place so full of plastic it’s called Junk Beach. The message that plastic lasts forever, no matter how long we use it, is much more obvious living there than it is here.

I wanted to start using less plastic in my life. I started taking action: carrying a reusable water bottle, reusable grocery bags, skipping the straw at restaurants and bars. I looked for other ways to use less plastic. But I couldn’t figure out how to get those plastic bottles out of my shower. I couldn’t find any alternatives that worked for me and my hair. 

As we contemplated a move back to the States, I realized that I might be able to solve my own problem. Even better, I might be able to help other people use less plastic in their lives. I pulled in my sister, Alison Webster, who has a design degree and strong opinions about the quality of her products. Together we spent two years working hard to make it easier for people to get quality products without having to buy single-use plastic bottles. We launched Plaine Products in February 2017. 

How exactly does your refill system work, and do you find that it is easy for your new customers to adjust to this model?

We designed the system to be as convenient as possible to fit the needs of busy people who want to have smaller plastic and waste footprints. Here’s how it works: You order your preferred products for our website PlaineProducts.com. When your bottles are low you order a refill, or you can subscribe and we’ll send the bottles automatically. When the refills come you’ll switch the pumps over and send back the empty bottles in the refill box, Plaine Products covers the cost. Then we clean the bottles, refill them and reuse them. We’ve invested heavily in personal, responsive customer service to make sure we’re there to help if people have questions or want to make changes to their subscription.

Some businesses offer product refills in plastic containers. Why did Plaine Products opt for refillable aluminum containers rather than plastic?

We went with aluminum for two reasons:

One, aluminum is infinitely recyclable, which means we can reuse our bottles as many times as possible, but when they have outlived their usefulness they can be turned right back into more bottles. However, when plastic is recycled it is downgraded and can only be used one, maybe twice, before it goes to the landfill, or worse the ocean. 

The other reason is concerns about the chemicals that are in plastics. When I started doing research for Plaine Products I learned how many chemicals were in mainstream beauty products. It was an eye opening experience to read about the toxins, detergents and pollutants I was putting on my skin and in my body. It just didn’t make sense to me to offer this amazing, environmentally friendly packaging and then put chemicals that were harmful to people, animals and the environment inside. And again, it didn’t make sense to ensure our products are toxin-free and then put them in plastic bottles, when there is increasing concern around the chemicals that are leaching out of the plastic bottles and into the products inside.

What benefits does your new unscented line offer/who did you have in mind when you developed the unscented line?

Unscented products were the most requested item from our customers and would-be customers. While our scented products only contain essential oils, not synthetic chemical-based “fragrances” in many products, they are still too much for some people and their skin. Those with sensitive skin, preexisting skin conditions, allergies, or even a hypersensitive sense of smell can get very irritated by the ingredients in fragrances or even by essential oils.  Even for those without preexisting skin conditions there is one common condition many people experience from fragrances or essential oils: contact dermatitis.  This is a form of eczema, so after prolonged use of a product, your skin may start to develop an eczema-like rash. Many times, essential oils or the unknown ingredients in “fragrances” can be the culprit for irritation, which is why an unscented or fragrance-free product may be the best option.

Thank you Lindsey and Plaine Products!

Join our global Coalition.

Did you know? Plastic Pollution Coalition turned 11 years old on Oct. 24, 2020. The movement to stop plastic pollution has made great strides over the years. We are thankful for all of our members, advisors, donors, and friends who have brought us to this point.

Here are 11 major accomplishments we are celebrating from the past 11 years:

  1. Plastic Pollution Coalition has grown into a broad alliance of 1,200+ businesses and organizations, and 13,000+ individual members, from 75 countries on 6 continents.
  2. Our REFUSE Campaign generated thousands of pledges to REFUSE plastic before you “Reduce, Reuse & Recycle.”
  3. The Refill Revolution diverted millions of plastic cups and water bottles from landfill at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival for 7 years running.
  4. We have changed the narrative, calling ‘marine debris’ what it in fact is: plastic pollution.
  5. In 2010, our TEDx: Great Pacific Garbage Patch ignited a movement where experts, influencers, and activists started bringing increased attention to the global plastic pollution crisis.
  6. The Last Plastic Straw Founder Jackie Nunez highlighted the irrelevance of the plastic straw, built a groundswell of support to “skip the straw,” and continue to hold companies like Starbucks accountable.
  7. We have grown our support network of amazing Scientific AdvisorsNotable Coalition membersYouth Ambassadors, and Executive Advisory Board members to lead the way and spread the word.
  8. The Better Alternatives Now (BAN) List, produced with 5 Gyres, identified the most dangerous plastics.
  9. Our Plastic Free Guides & Tools include The Plastic-Free Campus Manual (with Post-Landfill Action Network), The Healthy Baby Guide (with MADE SAFE), and the Global Legislative Advocacy Toolkit, are all available for free on our website, and are accessed daily.
  10. The ReThink Plastic Pilot Study, launched with Child Health and Development Studies, demonstrated changed behavior reduces exposure to health hazards from the toxic chemicals in plastic.
  11. We are a founding member of #breakfreefromplastic global and support the proposed U.S. federal legislation: The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act.
Plastic Pollution Coalition launch with founders and advisors on the beach in Malibu, CA, on Oct. 24, 2009.

We still have a lot of work to do. Here are 11 projects we are currently pursuing:

  1. As part of TED Countdown, we hosted 84 mins of programming called TEDx Plastic Pollution Coalition on Oct. 14.
  2. PPC Global Webinars, educating and informing on topics on plastic pollution and solutions, with our next webinar on October 27, “Unseen: Microplastics Research & Solutions.
  3. Our Global Plastic Reduction Legislative Toolkit, created with members, is the primary global portal and resource for individuals, organizations, and policymakers focused on eliminating plastic pollution through policy action.
  4. U.S. Federal Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020 introduced in February 2020.
  5. Following our Advocacy to Action grassroots training (with Oceana & Student PIRGs), supporting youth and local activist leaders with small grants to put their advocacy efforts into action.
  6. Together with our fiscal sponsor, Earth Island Institute, taking Legal Action with a ground-breaking lawsuit filed against major plastic-polluting corporations in California.
  7. Promoting PPC Youth Ambassador Hannah Testa of Hannah4Change’s new book Taking on the Plastics Crisis, published on October 13 from Pocket Change Collective (Penguin Random House).
  8. Partnering with The Conrad Foundation on the new Ocean Challenge as part of the Conrad Challenge, a youth STEM innovation challenge.
  9. Launched The Healthy Pregnancy Guide (with MADE SAFE) to help navigate the challenges of preparing a nontoxic home and making healthier living choices for babies and the planet.
  10. Continuing to call out major polluters through our Corporate Campaigns, including Amazon & Coca-Cola.
  11. Partnered with TheJetLagged.com on an immersive 360 virtual reality film, Sea Plastic, narrated by PPC Notable Tim Robbins.

Together, we are creating a healthier, more just, equitable world—a world free of plastic pollution.

Check out our 11th Anniversary campaign, where your donation will be doubled, up to $11,000, when you give by October 31. We thank you!

By Jennifer A. Wagner-Lawlor, PPC Ambassador

I’ve got a quick mental survey for you:

  1. How many business meetings or conferences do you attend every year?
  2. Do they serve food/beverages?
  3. Of those, how many of them are plastic-free?

If your professional experience is anything like mine, then the answer to #3 is “none of them.” There might be water glasses and a pitcher of water or ice water in meeting rooms … but those will sit next to the plastic bottles of water, soda, and juice. There might be actual stainless steel ware – but still those plastic stirrers to the side of the coffee and tea.

How hard would it be to get rid of those plastic bottles and plastic-ware?  Have you ever asked?

The truth is, it can be either easier or harder than you think – in other words, like so many things, it depends. But if no one asks for a no-plastic conference, it will that much longer until we can expect there to be one! 

This ‘ask’ is something any one of us can do with a simple email to conference organizers. One such effort: This past summer I attended the annual American Comparative Literature Association conference in Utrecht, Netherlands. Two of the local organizers, Birgit Kaiser and Kathrin Thiele are good friends who have been listening to me talk for years about plastic pollution and Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC). In early spring, they wrote to tell me that the local conference-organization committee had “just decided against providing water [in plastic bottles] at the ACLA. It would be too much waste, too much plastic, and Utrecht tap water has [one of] the highest ratings.” Utrecht, it turns out, also has public taps. You can refill any time.

So my friends asked about the possibility of having some stainless steel water bottles with the conference logo – so I put them in touch with John Borg, CEO of Steely’s Drinkware, to look into the viability of doing that. The truth is, because of logistics, the expense of transportation, and the rules of the Utrecht University about selling things, that ambitious plan didn’t work out this time. But that didn’t mean that nothing happened!  

  1. Pre-conference emails asked participants to bring their own water bottles, and explained that no bottled water would be supplied. What participants found on site were large glass water dispensers located at popular sites and kept refilled. Coffee was served in compostable paper cups.
  2. The conference program included a “sustainability statement” – with a shout-out to Plastic Pollution Coalition (below).
  3. PPC flyers were put out in the registration room.

It’s a modest start.  But the moral of this story is, It doesn’t hurt to ask. Again and again. One small step at a time.

Katrin Thiele and Birgit Kaiser (below left and right), Utrecht University faculty, and co-organizers of the American Comparative Literature Association conference in Utrecht (Netherlands), July 6-9, 2017.

Jennifer Wagner-Lawlor is Associate Professor of Women’s Studies and English at Penn State University.

See also: More Ways to Go Plastic Free at Work