Packaging companies won't have to use recycled content in California after all.Strict legislation was amended June 29 to give food and cosmetic packaging significant flexibility for complying with the state's recycled-content law.
Sen. Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata, the bill's sponsor, agreed to soften it to garner enough support for it to pass the state Senate, which it did. The Assembly will take up the proposal July 12.
The new language is a recognition that ``minimum content for food and beverage is a risky proposition,'' said Lance Hastings, a lobbyist for the Grocery Manufacturers of America's California office and spokesman for a broad industry coalition that includes the Washington-based American Plastics Council.
But the coalition still opposes the bill because it creates new mandates for manufacturers.
The environmental organization Californians Against Waste said the new language ``wouldn't be our first choice,'' but the group remains supportive.
Essentially, the bill would allow makers of rigid plastic containers to avoid using 35 percent recycled content. If recycling rates fall below 35 percent, they can either reduce material use by 35 percent or purchase credits from other companies that are using more than 35 percent recycled content.
The system is similar to the federal program for trading air-pollution credits.
The June 29 amendments also appear to make a significant addition to recycling requirements, adding point-of-sale retail packaging such as food-service packaging and plastic cups, industry lobbyists said.
Arguments that such mandates could endanger food and cosmetic safety were persuasive to legislators, according to Rick Best, CAW policy director.
Currently, food and cosmetic packaging are exempt from any recycled-content provisions.
Environmentalists consider the argument baseless because there are more than 50 letters from the Food and Drug Administration approving recycled plastic in packaging, and some companies already make widespread use of it, Best said.
Hastings said using recycled content is complicated.
Many of the FDA letters are for specific resins in specific applications, and include limits on the source or use of material.
``There is a liabilty hurdle that is always glossed over,'' Hastings said. ``FDA approval does not mean you are held harmless.''