Los Angeles basin air-quality regulators have declined to modify a rule on emission of volatile organic compounds. The California Film Extruders & Converters Association's printers committee requested the change Sept. 8. ``Technologies exist today ... that allow flexographic printers to comply with the 300-grams-per-liter VOC limit in Rule 1130 for all printing applications,'' said a Jan. 12 report to the governing board of the pollution-conscious South Coast Air Quality Management District.
``As a result, staff recommends no changes to the VOC limit specified in Rule 1130,'' originally adopted in 1980.
Certain printers felt the rebuff.
``I was disappointed with what happened, and it added more disappointment that Reclaim died a miserable death that day,'' said Richard Gurewitz, president of Poly Pak America Inc. in Los Angeles and vice president of Corona del Mar-based CFECA.
Reclaim, or Regional Clean Air Incentive Market, is an emissions trading program that has been the subject of discussions, surveys and position papers for five years.
``We should not be restrained about what kinds of ink we use to achieve the VOC levels,'' Gurewitz said. ``One kind [of ink] does not work on everything,'' although he said it was sufficient for 90 percent of the products.
That ink is water-based and, according to certain printers, can transfer off just-packed plastic bags of hot tortillas, iced-down bags of carrots and air-permeable, nitrogen-releasing bags of steer manure, compost and mulch. Problems include adhesion and ink quality.
West Bag Inc. of Monterey Park, Calif., finds itself in a quandary. Converting two presses to ultraviolet-curable inks would cost more than $200,000, said Luis Michel, president.
West Bag prints bags for tor-tillas, frozen foods and potting soil. Michel said that like his competitors, he may relocate to Arizona or Mexico.
Over four months, SCAQMD members interviewed printers of polyethylene and polypropylene bags, visiting 21 facilities, including 18 in the district.
``Waterborne ink technology has demonstrated significant success in the printing of a variety of substrates,'' the SCAQMD staff reported. ``UV-curable inks are possible but very expensive, and acetone replacement still needs additional research.''
The report identified five companies still printing with 1,1,1 trichloroethane-based inks on bags for frozen foods, tortillas, manure or produce. The Montreal Protocol and the 1990 federal Clean Air Act amendment required phase out of the compound 1,1,1 trichloroethane by the end of 1995.
``Printers who still use solvent-based inks believe the report did not adequately deal with ink performance in the field,'' said Curtis Coleman, a former SCAQMD lawyer.
The district indicated a willingness ``to continue to work with us,'' Coleman said. ``Some Southern California printers are either under variance or an order for abatement so they can use alcohol-based inks on certain products.'' The last of these exceptions expires July 1.
At the SCAQMD meeting, at the printing industry's suggestion, the district killed plans for the Reclaim trading program.
``It was too big a sacrifice by industry and too complex to satisfy all the players'' including environmentalists, said Edwin Laird, president of Coatings Resource Corp. in Huntington Beach, Calif., and a leader on the steering committee for a Regional Clean Air Incentive Market.
``It is better to stay under command-and-control than the unknown of Reclaim,'' Laird said. ``Business felt Reclaim would narrow alternatives.''
Within the political community, another challenge faces SCAQMD. The district regulates stationary sources of pollution in Los Angeles and Orange counties and portions of San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
Republican Curt Pringle, elected in January as the California Assembly speaker, has taken aim at the district. He said SCAQMD rules are ``onerous and destructive to the state's economy.''
Abolishment of the district, however, is unlikely, attorney Coleman observed.