California blow molders are taking their state's wide-ranging war on plastic waste with equanimity, troubled more by the added documentation that often goes with any new governmental initiative than with the added costs to their manufacturing. Vinyl bottle makers may feel the impact of the law first, as processors say clear, recycled PVC is in short supply.
Since Jan. 1, bottle makers have had four options to meet California's packaging law: Plastic containers between 8 ounces and 5 gallons either must be made of 25 percent recycled resin, be recycled at a 25 percent rate, be refillable, or be lightweighted - made using 10 percent less material, over time.
Exemptions until 1997 include food and cosmetic containers whose manufacturers diligently have sought nonobjection letters from the Food and Drug Administration permitting the use of recycled plastic.
``It's not difficult,'' said Robert Forr, general manager of blow molder Simi Corp. in Anaheim, Calif.
``Once we took time to dissect the law, had five top managersread it and determine what it means, we found it's easier to comply than resist.''
Forr said skyrocketing costs of post-consumer high density polyethylene have added 7-8 percent to the cost of a complying bottle - that is, one with at least 25 percent recycled content. It is a cost of which his customers are aware and so far have not contended seriously.
Simi, which reported sales of $13.4 million in 1994, has 22 blow molding machines and two extruders.
Forr said an inventory of the 500 types of bottles made by Simi shows only 170 are affected by the law and that the easiest way to document compliance is to practice lightweighting. Still, Forr said, Simi Corp. has 11 different new documents showing inventory, quality control, new products and design specifications, all geared to show compliance, which California will start monitoring next year.
Officials from Simi and Poly-Tainer Inc. in Simi Valley, Calif., agreed that consumers may notice one aspect of a company's compliance with the 1991 Rigid Plastic Packaging Container Act: The minimum 25 percent post-consumer plastic content in some products will make it more difficult for blow molders to produce the same-color bottle consistently.
Frank Cowles, sales manager for Poly-Tainer, said, ``There's not a lot of people making a lot of to-do'' about the new law.
``We are and have been in a position to provide our customers with post-consumer recycled plastic products,'' he said.
One of the few vinyl blow molders in California, Poly-Tainer uses only one source for PVC and its supplier ``is pretty much sold out,'' making the 25 percent recycled requirement harder to meet, he said.
Cowles said out-of-state bottle makers may test the California law by waiting to provide documentation until asked.
``California is a cash-strapped state,'' he said. ``Many people are just waiting to see what shakes out.''