Twenty-two companies will have to add recycled content or make other environmentally friendly changes to their plastic containers under agreements announced June 20 by California regulators.
Those 22 are the first of 180 firms that the California Integrated Waste Management Board is targeting in a stepped-up campaign to require firms to improve the environmental performance of their packaging. California law requires the state to take action if its plastic container recycling rate drops below 25 percent. The rate has dropped steadily in recent years, and in 1999, it fell to 17.9 percent.
The waste board plans to negotiate with and approve agreements with an additional 30 companies each month until all have been resolved, said Roni Java, a board spokeswoman. It is by far the board's largest enforcement action for the state's Rigid Plastic Packaging Container law.
``We enjoy a great many conveniences today, one of which is the increased number of products and supplies that we can purchase in easy-to-use plastic containers,'' Waste Board Chairman Linda Moulton Patterson said in a news release. ``The trouble is, not enough of those convenient containers are being recycled, and that's not good news for California's environment.''
The board has focused on companies selling automobile accessories and lubricants, hardware, janitorial supplies and hobbies and crafts. Other markets, including food, medical and hazardous-materials packaging, are exempt from the law.
The companies have until June 2002 to comply, Java said. To comply, companies can either use 25 percent post-consumer content, source reduce the container by 10 percent, make the container refillable five times or see that 45 percent of its containers are recycled.
As many as 245 more companies could face action from the California agency. Board officials said they mailed surveys to 950 companies in August, but it will take more time to determine if 245 additional firms have to comply.
Companies, of course, can switch to a packaging material not covered by the law, as a few did in California's last go-around with enforcing the law, or they can choose not to sell products in California.
Some industry officials have complained that the law only calculates recycling rates retroactively - in this case for 1999 - and punishes them after the fact, rather than estimating rates for future years and letting companies adjust accordingly.
To address that, the board decided at the June 20 meeting that it would rely on the previous year's recycling rate for compliance in the current year.
The board will announce the 2000 recycling rate June 29 and take enforcement action for that year, if needed, according to agency staffer John Nuffer.
The 22 companies are: Betco Corp., Chase Bros. Co., Chemspec, Essential Industries Inc., Golden Star Inc., Hercules Chemical Co. Inc., Imperial Toy Corp., Irontite by Kwik-Way Inc., Mapei Corp USA, Milliken and Co., Multi-Clean Inc., Palmer Paint Products Inc., Plaid Enterprises Inc., Quikrete Cos., Roebic Laboratories Inc., Royal Soap & Chemical Co., Scientific Models Inc., Simple Green, Sunnyside Corp., Telko Inc., Shaler Co. and Velcro USA.
The board, based in Sacramento, Calif., also decided to start enforcement and penalty hearings against Botanical Science Inc. and Sierra Sod and Supply for not responding fully to board inquiries.