California's waste board again fell short of solving its conundrum on the state's 1995 recycling rates for rigid plastic packaging. At a Sept. 25 meeting in Salinas, the board voted 3-2 for a motion of Chairman Daniel G. Pennington of Folsom to adopt a 23.5-25.9 percent range for computing container recycling rates. Passage, however, requires four votes. One board seat is vacant.
Next, board member Wesley Chesbro of Eureka moved to bury the 1995 certification effort and move on to 1996. That proposal also failed.
As a result, the California Integrated Waste Management Board failed to meet an obligation under a 1991 state law to calculate annually and certify recycling rates for two categories of plastic containers.
The board's failure does not release industry from a mandate to make packaging with 25 percent post-consumer material, make it reusable or refillable or produce containers that use less resin. To date, however, the state has not enforced the law.
Virgin resin producers and product manufacturers support a method that originally computed the rate at 25.2 percent, two-tenths of 1 percent above the state mandate. Subsequently, CIWMB staff found that the calculation omitted incinerated packaging and materials exported to Washington and Utah. Add those items and the rate becomes 24.7 percent.
``Absent an action, you are left with the status quo here since Jan. 1, 1995,'' Roger Bernstein, senior director of government affairs with the Washington-based American Plastics Council, said in a telephone interview.
CIWMB agreed in July 1995 to work with Seattle-based Cascadia Consulting Group Inc., an APC consultant, in calculating California's 1995 all-container recycling rate. APC spent nearly $400,000 on the study, Bernstein said.
APC was pleased that a CIWMB majority ``supported its staff recommendation to accept the waste sampling methodology,'' APC President Red Cavaney said in a statement.
``We believe there is no better, statistically valid methodology that can be specifically applied to California to determine a recycling rate,'' he said. ``For companies that need to be in compliance, this is the only reference point they have on the recycling rate for rigid plastic packaging containers.''
But some recycling interests reject the computations and APC's role.
Independent recycling consultant Joan Edwards of Los Angeles encouraged CIWMB to put 1995 ``behind us and do 1996 in a more collegial fashion.''
``Positions have hardened, and so many questions have been raised after all this acrimonious debate,'' she said.
Edwards, a member of the board's Recycling Rate Advisory Committee, advocates increased recycling but discourages enforcement efforts.
``Don't bug industry or the packaging users,'' she said.
Another RRAC member, John Shedd, noted that the board's staff members adjusted the Cascadia rate to 24.6 percent by including incineration and also calculated a rate of 15.7 percent using the conventional national-resins-sales method.
``This complete lack of correlation'' precludes the board from adopting a rate or range, said Shedd, president of recycler Talco Plastics Inc. of Whittier, Calif. ``Let the staff and board use this as a learning period and move on to 1996 calculations.''
CIWMB spokesman John Frith said members of the three-person majority ``hope they can reach a solution to adopt a 1995 rate and move forward.''
Gov. Pete Wilson may appoint someone to fill the sixth CIWMB seat within two months.