By Adrienne Moore

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Thursday subpoenaed ExxonMobil as part of a new investigation into what he calls a global plastic pollution crisis, saying fossil fuel and petrochemical companies have been overstating the role of recycling in curbing the problem.

In fact, Bonta said it’s only accelerated the crisis.

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“The public has been aggressively deceived by some of the largest and most influential corporations in the world,” he said.

Bonta said the beauty and health of our communities is under attack.

PLAYA DEL REY, CA – APRIL 28: California Attorney General Rob Bonta, flanked by his legal team, announced Thursday at Dockweiler State Beach that his office has launched an unprecedented investigation into the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries alleged role in causing and exacerbating the plastic pollution crisis on Thursday, April 28, 2022 in Playa Del Rey, CA. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

“The fossil fuel and petrochemical industry have engaged in a half-century campaign of deception that has harmed our environment, our people and our natural resources,” he said.

Bonta said, for more than 50 years, the plastics industry has engaged in aggressive campaigns to mislead the public that recycling can solve the plastics crisis.

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ExxonMobil is among the first to be subpoenaed. Bonta said more companies are being targeted but didn’t give any names.

“More than 300 million tons of plastics and oil-based products are produced annually—a nearly 20,000% increase since the 1950s,” Bonta said.

The harsh reality, he said, is that the majority of plastics cannot be recycled.

“The truth is, the recycling rate has never surpassed 9%,” Bonta said, and added that “91% are released in landfills, are burned or are released into the environment.”

Plastics break down into smaller pieces called microplastics. Those microplastics have been found in drinking water, food, the air and even in human blood and lung tissues.

“Each of us consumes more than 40 pounds of plastic over our lifetimes,” Bonta said.

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Bonta says the clean-up costs associated with plastic pollution in California have skyrocketed to an estimated half a billion dollars a year.

Adrienne Moore