Markets Must Also Promote Recycling Of Plastic Bags
POSTED: 6:04 am PDT July 2, 2007
UPDATED: 10:35 am PDT July 2, 2007
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sodas are fizzing out and tougher nutrition standards are coming in at California schools.Two bills that took effect Sunday will phase out the sale of sodas in high schools and, with some exceptions, limit calories, saturated fat, salt and sugar in snacks sold at elementary, junior high and high school campuses.The measures are an attempt to reduce childhood obesity and are among several laws that went into effect at midyear. The statutes also include measures that implement a plastic bag recycling program, boost recycling fees paid by consumers on beverage containers and create a state Department of Public Health.California laws usually take effect on Jan. 1 of the year after they are enacted, but sometimes implementation is delayed to give those who enforce or who are affected by the statutes additional time to prepare.The school nutrition bills grew out of former Sen. Martha Escutia’s struggles with gestational diabetes when she had her second child eight years ago. Her research on diabetes and its links to obesity led to a 6 1/2-year campaign against school junk food.One of Escutia’s bills implements nutrition standards for elementary school food. They were adopted in 2001 but were held up by a requirement that the state also increase funding for school meals.Those standards, with some exceptions for nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables, limit the amount of salt, saturated fat, sugar and calories in snack items sold to elementary students during morning and afternoon breaks.The measure also imposes similar requirements for junior high and high school snacks and puts limits on fat and calories in secondary school entrees.The other Escutia bill phases out the sale of sodas at high schools, implementing requirements already in place at elementary and junior high schools.The legislation requires that at least half the drinks sold immediately before, during and after school consist of fruit and vegetable drinks without added sweeteners, bottled water, low- or nonfat milk, nondairy milk and sports drinks. The electrolyte-replacing drinks can have no more than 42 grams of added sweetener per 20-ounce bottle.Beginning July 1, 2009, all beverages sold at high schools will have to meet those requirements, although the bill allows exceptions for sporting events and other after-school extracurricular events.Escutia, a Norwalk Democrat who was termed out of the Senate last year, said her legislation isn’t a “silver bullet” that will ensure children will eat healthy diets.She said a broader bill covering full school meals would have been too tough to get through the Legislature and that there is no guarantee students will avoid junk food before and after school.”But at least during the school day, we’re going to see a lot of good things happen in terms of cafeterias serving healthier (food),” she said.Brett McFadden, a management consultant for the Association of California School Administrators, said he believed most school districts began implementing the bill’s requirements before Sunday’s deadline.”We had a lot of outcry about this issue five or six years ago,” he said. “But the environment has changed quite a bit, so much so that I actually don’t expect much noise at all coming from my members about these laws going into effect.”He said association officials had a “big change of heart” on nutrition standards after seeing statistics on the sharp increase in obesity and diabetes.”Once we were able to see this was not going to be that difficult to implement and we would have time to do this, we said, ‘We can do this, and this is the right thing to do,'” he said.Here are some of the other laws that took effect Sunday:PLASTIC BAGS – Legislation by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Sherman Oaks, requires that supermarkets and certain other large retailers implement plastic bag recycling programs.The measure requires stores to place plastic bag recycling bins in easily accessible places and to have reusable carryout bags made of cloth or durable plastic available for customers to buy. All disposable plastic bags will have to have notices on them encouraging consumers to recycle them.Levine said he considered attempting to require a deposit on plastic bags similar to the ones on beverage cans and bottles to encourage consumers to recycle, but decided that approach was unworkable.The legislation’s requirements will sunset in 2013. Levine believes that will provide enough time for local governments to implement curbside recycling programs for plastic bags.”This isn’t perfect and I know that, but it’s a huge step forward from where we are,” he said. “It will provide over 7,000 receptacles for people to drop off plastic bags. It’s not that hard to do. I do it.”Plastic bags create a huge garbage and litter problem, generating more than 147,000 tons of trash a year in California, according to an Assembly analysis of Levine’s legislation. Levine said he became interested in the issue after seeing trees along the Los Angeles River festooned with discarded plastic bags.RECYCLING FEES – Consumers won’t have to pay recycling deposits on plastic bags, but the ones they pay on sodas, beer and other beverages went up on Sunday in an attempt to increase recycling. The increases will raise the deposit from 4 cents to 5 cents on cans and bottles holding 24 ounces or less and from 8 cents to 10 cents on larger containers. Shoppers have been receiving the higher refunds since January.NEW DEPARTMENTS – Other legislation splits the state Department of Health Services into two new entities — the state Department of Public Health and the Department of Health Care Services.Supporters said the change was needed to put more emphasis on public health programs, including campaigns against obesity, diabetes, smoking and infectious diseases. The Department of Health Care Services will continue to manage the state’s health programs for the poor.