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Preproduction Plastic Debris Program

Preproduction Plastic Debris Program

Assembly Bill (AB) 258, which became effective January 1, 2008 adds Chapter 5.2 to Division 7 of the California Water Code, section 13367, entitled “Preproduction Plastic Debris Program.” This section of the Water Code applies to facilities in California that manufacture, handle, or transport preproduction plastics, the raw materials used to produce plastic products.

Potential sources of preproduction plastics range from manufacturers, transporters, warehousers, processors, and recyclers located throughout California. Preproduction plastic spilled during its creation, transport, use, and disposal can be mobilized by storm water. Once in storm water, preproduction plastic is transported into inland and coastal waters where it contributes to the growing problem of plastic trash and debris in California.

What is preproduction plastic?

Preproduction plastic is the raw plastic resin materials that are molded into finished plastic products. Preproduction plastics are often produced in a resin pellet format, occasionally termed as “nurdles.” These small, 1- to 5- mm diameter pieces are produced in various shapes, colors, and plastic types. Preproduction plastic resins are also produced in powder, granule, and flake form.

The following are some photographic examples:

Why is preproduction plastic a problem?

Preproduction plasticís size, and plastic’s inherent durability and chemical composition pose multiple concerns once in the environment.

  • Preproduction plastic’s small size allows the material to widely disperse and become embedded in natural elements such as sediments and plant matter, making clean-up efforts costly and labor intensive.
  • Preproduction plastic may be consumed by organisms that mistake it for food. Fish, sea birds, turtles, and marine mammals have been documented consuming plastic debris, including preproduction plastic formats.
  • As preproduction plastic breaks down, it degrades into smaller and smaller pieces, some of which are microscopic in size. Research indicates that plastic in the ocean may never fully degrade into naturally occurring compounds. The definite length of time for other common forms of plastic to fully degrade in the environment is unknown.
  • Preproduction plastic, like other plastic debris, may contain compounds such as bisphenol A and nonylphenol that are used in the manufacture of plastic resin and pose potential health and environmental hazards. Plastic in the marine environment is also able to accumulate and concentrate toxic pollutants. Research has found pieces of plastic to contain toxic pollutants at levels that are thousands of times higher than those typically found in seawater.

Current Activities

Inspections - Regional and State Water Board staff have conducted and are continuing to conduct compliance inspections of preproduction plastic manufacturing, handling, and transport facilities enrolled under California's Industrial General Permit (IGP) for storm water discharges. Collectively these inspections are helping State and Regional Water Board staff to develop cost-effective regulatory approaches (including compliance-evaluation procedures and appropriate best management practices) for addressing this pollution problem.

Enforcement –Regional and State Water Board staff inspections have generated enforcement actions throughout the state. Common enforcement actions include enrolling new facilities in the Industrial Storm Water General Permit and citing and correcting storm water violations pertaining to discharges of preproduction plastic. The State Water Board, San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board and U.S. EPA have also collaborated to produce a clean-up and abatement order that requires multiple industrial plastic businesses to carry out an environmental clean-up of preproduction plastics that were historically discharged into Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline in San Leandro.

Stakeholder Outreach and Coordination –The State Water Board lead stakeholder meetings related to this initiative from 2009-2011 with participation from plastics industry representatives, environmental interest groups, and storm water professionals.

Program Contact

Additional Information Regarding Preproduction Plastic