The following briefs were compiled by Plastics News' Washington-based reporter Steve Toloken.
Tooling group backs estate tax phaseout
WASHINGTON — The National Tooling and Machining Association is supporting legislation that will phase out the estate tax over 10 years, one of several proposals to eliminate the tax that is percolating on Capitol Hill.
The NTMA and other small-business lobbying groups favor eliminating the tax because they argue it can put a significant burden on privately owned businesses when the owner dies.
``These businesses can easily have over a million dollars' worth of equipment on a shop floor but have very little cash on hand. If the owner dies suddenly, or without proper preparations, the taxes can put the company out of business, losing jobs and hurting communities,'' said NTMA President Matthew Coffey.
But the estate tax brings in $23 billion a year to Washington, about 1.4 percent of federal revenue, and some opponents of eliminating it argue that would amount to a tax break for the wealthy.
Some proposals would eliminate the tax immediately. But Fort Washington, Md.-based NTMA said legislation introduced by Reps. Jennifer Dunn, R-Wash., and John Tanner, D-Tenn., is more likely to pass because it would cost the government less money. That plan would phase out the tax over 10 years, with rates dropping 5 percent a year, from a top rate of 55 percent now, NTMA said.
CMA members commit to testing chemicals
WASHINGTON — More than 50 members of the Chemical Manufacturers Association agreed March 2 to test their high-production chemicals, the first step in a program to produce basic environmental data on 2,800 chemicals by 2004.
The building blocks of plastics occupy nine of the top 10 spots on the list, including ethylene, propylene, ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride.
CMA said the companies committed to testing 600 chemicals, but will not release an initial, specific list until March 15.
The cooperative venture between CMA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Environmental Defense Fund was launched last fall as a way to speed up testing. The venture came after an EDF report detailed gaps in health data on many of the chemicals.
Some EPA rules requiring testing could be needed if enough companies do not volunteer, said William Stavropoulos, president and chief executive officer of Dow Chemical Co. and chairman of CMA's executive committee. Stavropoulos spoke at a March 2 Washington news conference.
APC, city will study all-bottle recycling
WASHINGTON — The American Plastics Council and Mesa, Ariz., on Feb. 11 agreed to start promoting an ``all plastic bottles'' recycling message as a way to boost recycling.
The trial will look at whether telling residents to recycle all their plastic bottles — rather than containers with resin code numbers 1 or 2 — increases the amount of plastic collected for recycling, said Ron Perkins, APC's director of recycling operations.
People tend to throw away custom PET and pigmented high density polyethylene containers such as shampoo and detergent bottles, thinking they are not recyclable, Perkins said.
It will be the first statistically valid trial of the theory, because APC and Mesa have taken representative samples citywide of how much plastic is recycled and how much is thrown away to get a good base line, Perkins said. Anecdotal evidence suggests an all-bottles message boosts recycling, he said.
The trial should be completed by June 1. Washington-based APC would not discuss how much it will cost, but said promotional efforts will be kept small enough so that other cities can afford to duplicate it, Perkins said.
Greenpeace pushes substitutes for PVC
WASHINGTON — The debate over PVC toys should move away from trying to weigh risk and instead focus on readily available alternatives, Greenpeace charged in a report released Feb. 8.
Greenpeace's report, ``A Review of the Availability of Plastic Substitutes for Soft PVC in Toys,'' said that metallocene polyolefins, thermoplastic elastomers, ethylene vinyl acetate and other olefin blends are the best available substitutes. Plastics that do not require large amounts of phthalates should be used, Greenpeace said.
The Toy Manufacturers of America said Feb. 8 there is no evidence suggesting harm to children from phthalates, and charged that environmentalists are taking studies suggesting a link between cancer and phthalates out of context.
The levels given to rodents are at least 75 times the amount that a child could suck, and TMA said rodents are much more vulnerable to them than people, TMA said. Massive doses given to guinea pigs and primates, whose phthalate sensitivity is much closer to that of humans, do not create problems, TMA said.
Calif. may reinstate recycled-content law
SACRAMENTO, CALIF. — California will consider putting food and cosmetic packaging back into the state's recycled-content laws, closing what environmentalists say is a major loophole in the law.
California used to require makers of food and cosmetic containers to meet recycling targets or demonstrate that they were using 25 percent recycled content, source reducing or using refillable containers.
The law was changed in 1996 to exempt food and cosmetic packaging. Such packaging accounts for more than half of the plastic containers sold in California, according to Sacramento-based Californians Against Waste.
Senate bill 1110 would remove that exemption and set higher standards for plastic recycling, said Rick Best, spokesman for CAW, which supports the bill. The bill was introduced by state Sen. Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata.
The legislation would require 35 percent of all plastic bottles to be recycled, up from the current 25 percent. If that goal is not met, manufacturers would have to prove they use 35 percent recycled content, according to Best.
California law seek retractable sharps
WASHINGTON — The nation's largest health-care union has launched a campaign to mandate the use of safe needles and syringes in health-care facilities, spurred by California legislation last year requiring safer needles.
The Washington-based Service Employees International Union effort, announced Feb. 18, is a grass-roots effort that so far is seeing action in 19 states, said spokeswoman Renee Asher.
``It truly is being spearheaded by nurse activists'' at the ground level, she said. Legislation has been introduced in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey and Washington.
About 1,000 health-care workers develop contagious diseases each year from needle sticks, and 200-250 die as a result, she said.
The California law requires syringes with retractable needles or sheaths.
SPI cancels meeting set for Brasilplast
WASHINGTON — The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. canceled its international trade committee meeting planned for Brasilplast '99, which was held March 8-13 in SÃo Paulo, Brazil.
The International Trade Advisory Committee heard some companies were changing travel plans for the show, possibly reflecting skittishness about Brazil's economy, said Lori Anderson, director of economic and international trade issues for Washington-based SPI.
ITAC also was having problems arranging a meeting space, she said. Although ITAC tries to have one meeting a year at a foreign trade show, the problems forced the committee to ask if it would be worth the time and expense, Anderson said.
ITAC's next meeting is planned for May 12-13 at the National Plastics Center and Museum in Leominster, Mass., and at Nypro Inc. in nearby Clinton, Mass.
FDA wants user fee on approval system
WASHINGTON — Funding for a streamlined packaging approval system remains a question.
Food and Drug Administration officials told a congressional subcommittee in late February that the agency wants user fees to fund the program, which would shorten approval times for food packaging from several years to 120 days. Some key members of Congress, including Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Thomas Bliley, R-Va., oppose user fees.
The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. in Washington supports user fees but also is pushing Congress to give the program enough money from general tax dollars, said Lew Freeman, SPI's vice president of government affairs.
Congress last year gave FDA $500,000 to implement the program, short of the $1.5 million initially requested to get it up and running in 2000.
``I'm optimistic it would be implemented, but there is a struggle of wills going on between Congress and FDA over the degree of control that Congress has over the FDA budget,'' Freeman said.
That struggle is unrelated to the packaging program, Freeman said.