SALEM, ORE. - Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber - in an effort to preserve as much of the state's 1991 rigid plastics recycling law as possible - is expected to veto at least one of the three major recycling bills approved by the Oregon Legislature. The only one of the three bills Kitzhaber has promised to sign into law is a compromise version of S.B. 279, which exempts yogurt containers, syrup bottles and certain rigid plastic food tubs from coverage under the 1991 law.
The 1991 legislation mandates that firms recycle or reuse at least 25 percent of the rigid plastic containers used for consumer products in the state. The recycling rate reached 32 percent last year, deferring the need to apply the law's enforcement mechanisms, which include fines of up to $10,000 a day.
S.B. 279 started out with a sweeping list of exemptions. It would have cut 60 percent of all plastic food containers, including beverage bottles, from coverage under the law. But, in the face of a threatened Kitzhaber veto, beverage bottles were taken out of the bill, which now exempts only about 25 percent of food containers.
The Oregon Food Processors Association backed the bill, which had the backing of Oregon Senate President Gordon Smith, who owns a food processing firm.
The revised version won the approval of the Association of Oregon Recyclers at the price of killing another bill, S.B. 361. Recycling advocates say that proposal would gut the 1991 recycling law by allowing firms to meet the mandates either by averaging together the recycled content of all of their products or by reducing package sizes.
Kitzhaber has not yet determined what stance he will take on a second bill, S.B. 949, which went through several incarnations before final passage in the last days before the Legislature adjourned. The version now on Kitzhaber's desk would delay enforcement of the 1991 law until Jan. 1, 1998, a moot point since the recycling rate in the state has to fall below 25 percent to trigger any sanctions.
The maximum civil penalty would be $1,000 under the bill rather than the $10,000 authorized by the 1991 law.
The bill also requires the state's Department of Environmental Quality to conduct a comprehensive review of the 1991 law and submit a report to the next Legislature in 1997.
``The idea is to see if there is a different or better way to get to the next level of recycling and waste reduction,'' said Bob Danko, legislative liaison for the department.
The one bill among the trio that is seen as a sure-shot for a Kitzhaber veto is S.B. 950, which exempts plastic containers of hazardous material or pesticides from the recycling law. The exemption as worded would cover many household products containers that now are being recycled without any problem.