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Water bottle waste: Ventura County legislator proposes state law to chip away at problem

Jonathan Chung

Bill would require the state agencies to stop buying single use water bottles.

It’s a type of pollution we see everywhere. We see them by the side of the road, floating in creeks and on our beaches. They are plastic water bottles. A state assemblyman from the Tri-Counties wants California to set an example, and to use alternatives.

"Single use plastics just have a very negative impact on pollution, on the environment over," said Democratic State Assemblyman Steve Bennett of Ventura.

He said they do everything from create pollution which harms ecosystems to creating greenhouse gas emissions.

On Wednesday, Bennett introduced a bill in Sacramento intended to make the state government a leader on this issue. It would ban state agencies from buying single use water bottles.

"The legislation would ban the State of California from entering into contracts to buy single use plastic bottles," said Bennett. "It would be a part of Senate Bill 54, which was passed last year. So, this would be tailored for the State of California, and with our large purchasing power, if we start finding alternatives, then it will create a bigger market for non-single use plastic bottles, and make it easier for everyone to convert away."

If approved, Bennett said it might be the first state legislation of its type in the nation. 

While the bottles might not seem like a big thing, consider some of the statistics from a 2023 study commissioned by the United Nations. It said an estimated 600 billion water bottles were made in 2021. And, it reports an estimated million water bottles are bought around the world every minute. The UN study number show less than a third of the single use bottles are actually being recycled.

The state assemblyman said the use of the disposable bottles continues to climb. "Single use production overall is expected to triple by 2050," said Bennett

Bennett is hoping that if California bans the purchase of the bottles by the state, it will prompt other government agencies, businesses, non-profits and eventually the public to do the same.

But, this idea could turn into a battle. The bottles are big business, with companies having a vested interest in keeping things unchanged. The Center for Biological Diversity reports during the 2022 U.S. election cycle, the petrochemical and beverage industries spent more than $85 million dollars for lobbying, and political contributions.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.