State legislatures that are far more conservative than last year soon will be addressing recycling mandates, disposal fees, several kinds of packaging legislation and even the elimination of the chasing arrows recycling code from packaging. But as likely as they are to address them, they are unlikely to pass sweeping reforms, according to Missouri Rep. Patrick Dougherty, a St. Louis Democrat.
For example, Dougherty, chairman of the National Conference of State Legislators' Environment Committee, gives little credence to passage of ``manufacturers' responsibility'' legislation, such as Germany's Green Dot program.
``It would be far into the future when I see states passing mandatory buy-back bills,'' he said.
Such legislation would place the duty of collecting and processing used plastic containers on manufacturers, with the intent of limiting waste.
The change of more than 400 state legislative seats from Democrat to Republican in the November elections means ``there are so many new people out there in legislatures, and they're more conservative than they've been in years,'' he said. Also, ``it's really too early to tell what they're going to do, or what they're going to introduce.''
Some industry representatives think some states have more than enough incentive to act - the bottom line. Steve Young, president of the Council on Packaging in the Environment, believes manufacturer responsibility questions will begin to work their way onto legislators' desks this year.
Young asked, ``Who will pay in the end? The consumer. You can tax a manufacturer to take back and dispose of any item, but if a consumer uses it, the consumer will eventually pay that tax.''
Young said the urge to expand a local or state revenue base may appeal to state legislators who might otherwise look dimly on an industry tax.
The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. will keep a close eye on legislatures this year, minding carefully how federal Clean Air Act regulations will be put into effect in key states, said SPI Government Affairs Vice President Lewis Freeman.
``An unknown is how the implementation of the Clean Air Act will be managed in high non-compliance areas,'' he said.
A new SPI state-level wrinkle is how the association will play a larger role in worker training issues at the state level. ``Many plastics companies are straining to find employees'' of sufficient qualification to work in the industry, Freeman said.
Freeman said SPI's interest in such programs is driven partly by the association's desire to quantify his observation that ``the plastics industry is one of the industries growing the most with new jobs.''
Freeman also noted SPI will increase its state-level member outreach in targeted states where the industry has a high economic profile: It plans to do so with meetings like the Ohio Plastics Summit the association held in Columbus last April, and now is in discussion with a state where there is a growing presence of the plastics industry.
Highlights of expected state-level action this year include:
California - Californians Against Waste, an environmental activist group, already has pledged to back a bill eliminating the SPI's seven-resin recycling identification code from rigid plastic containers. The group claims the code does not serve its stated purpose as a resin-identification guide for recyclers. The organization advocates consumer-friendly recycling identification for plastics instead.
Colorado - This state may take up a similar measure because ``the SPI code issue seems to be more popular in the West,'' one state-level lobbyist said.
Florida - Florida is the only state with advance disposal fee legislation. The measure, which was approved to last only through 1995, may see some support for renewal or revision by its supporters this year.
Georgia - Legislation requiring an advance disposal fee may be introduced.
Minnesota - Minnesota Rep. Willard Munger, chairman of the House's Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, is expected to introduce the Packaging Reduction and Reuse Act of 1995. The act may include an advance disposal fee for plastics, recycled-content mandates and a pilot project to reuse plastic milk bottles in schools.
North Carolina - Legislation requiring an advance disposal fee may be introduced.
Oregon - One lobbyist, who requested anonymity, said an effort will be undertaken to make Oregon's rate-and-dates recycling law more similar to California's. Other possible amendments to the state law include: a narrower definition of rigid plastic containers; newly configured rules for corporations to meet recycling rates; and exemptions from U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations.