A new California law permanently exempting rigid plastic packaging of food and cosmetics from recycled content requirements is prompting municipalities to worry about their collection programs-and food processors to cheer their success. ``It makes it harder for the individual citizen to recycle plastic and costly to the extent municipalities and curbside programs collect plastic,'' said Yvonne Hunter, legislative representative for the Sacramento-based League of California Cities.
``Local governments still have recycling requirements and capital investment,'' she said. ``It is one more hurdle that we have to get over in trying to assure there are markets for the materials we collect.''
The exemption for food and cosmetics reduces demand for recycled plastic, and some municipal officials worry that will impact on collection programs.
Units of WMX Technologies of Oak Brook, Ill., and Browning-Ferris Industries Inc. of Houston, and the trade industry California Refuse Removal Council, are among vendors regularly collecting plastic and trying to increase volumes.
``The public is environmentally minded and interested in recycling materials,'' Hunter said. ``Is this a beginning of having more container types get out of minimum content laws? Will glass ask for it next?''
The Washington-based Nation-al Food Processors Association applauded Gov. Pete Wilson for signing Senate bill 1155 on Sept. 21. The law becomes effective Jan. 1.
``NFPA, working with member companies and other trade associations, has strongly supported [the] legislation,'' Brian Folkerts, senior director of government affairs, said in a statement. The Grocery Manufacturers of Amer-ica and the American Plastics Council also backed the bill.
The prior law ``set unachievable recycling mandates for food packaging'' and ``imposed severe environmental restrictions or monetary sanctions on the food processing users of recycled plastics,'' Folkerts said.
``Food processors must ensure that any use of recycled plastics does not compromise food safety concerns. Nonetheless, it is in the economic best interest of a food processor to source-reduce a package in order to save money,'' he said.
A 1991 law required rigid plastic containers use 25 percent recycled content, achieve a 25 percent recycling rate, be source-reduced by 10 percent or be made refillable or reusable. The bill, approved by the Senate on Aug. 31, extended what had been a temporary exemption of food and cosmetic rigid-plastic packaging.