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This year, declare your independence from single-use plastics

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Suzanne Potter

(California News Service) This Fourth of July, ocean conservation groups want Americans to declare their independence from single-use plastics.

A new report, "Charting a Course to Plastic-Free Beaches," names the five biggest culprits polluting beaches and waterways: cigarette butts, plus plastic foam food ware, bags, straws and stirrers, and utensils.

Anja Brandon, associate director of U.S. plastics policy for the Ocean Conservancy, said non-recyclable plastic items break down in the water and do great harm to wildlife. 

"We're calling for bans to eliminate or significantly reduce these five items," Brandon explained. "Eliminating these five items, in the U.S. alone, would cut 1.4 million tons of plastics each year."

The report advised people to bring reusable water bottles, plates, cups and cutlery to their barbecues, and to consider joining a nearby cleanup event. One year ago, California lawmakers passed Senate Bill 54, which requires all packaging in the state to be recyclable or compostable by 2032. 

Brandon pointed out the landmark California law jumpstarts the move toward a "circular" economy, where items are designed to be reused or recycled, so they do not end up in a landfill.

"SB 54 also requires that producers of all single-use materials help take responsibility for their items, and help pay for the recycling or composting of those items," Brandon outlined. "Also, the bill requires that plastics meet an incredibly high recycling rate of 65%."

You can find more ways to avoid single-use plastics on the website