The Kentucky Legislature seriously is considering a half-cent tax on beverage containers and disposable cups as a way to fund environmental cleanups.
The state fast is becoming a battleground for plastics-related environmental issues. Kentucky state government officials also have taken the unusual step of blocking a plastics industry attempt to change laws dealing with labeling of multilayered PET bottles. The state fears such a change will hurt recycling, while the industry dismisses that and says it merely wants to bring Kentucky in line with the rest of the country.
The fight over the advance disposal fee on beverage containers is the much more public battle.
The measure passed the state's Democratic-controlled House and has the support of Kentucky's Democratic Governor, Paul Patton, but now must navigate through uncertain waters in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Patton is preparing to start an ad campaign to urge residents to contact their state senators and support the legislation, said Barbara Rhoads, an aide for House Majority Leader Greg Stumbo, the container tax's chief sponsor.
Rhoads said the Senate faces a lot of pressure to clean up illegal dumps, but favors paying for the effort in other ways. The Legislature must act by April 1.
Industry officials oppose the bill. Luke Schmidt, president of the National Association for PET Container Resources in Charlotte, N.C., said the Senate's very clear opposition to any tax increase probably is going to torpedo Stumbo's ADF bill: ``I don't think it's going to see the light of day.''
While the ADF dominates the state's media, the dispute over labeling PET bottles is taking place at a much lower volume.
The industry is pushing legislation that would amend Kentucky law to allow multilayer PET containers for things like beer, juices and teas to be labeled as PET, a ``1'' under the resin identification code. Kentucky law requires them to be labeled as a ``7'' for ``other.''
Most states allow the containers to be labeled a 1. This would bring Kentucky in line, said Rudy Underwood, southern region director with the American Chemistry Council/American Plastics Council office in Atlanta. Underwood testified at a Feb. 26 legislative hearing.
Kentucky officials said the barrier bottles are not a concern at the levels in the recycling stream now, but will be when they reach levels at 10 percent or higher.
Too much of the barrier material will make it more expensive to recycle PET and cause fogging or yellowing of the material, lowering its value.
``We don't want to reward the PET industry for poor performance,'' said Matt Hackathorn, spokesman for Kentucky's Division of Waste Management. ``Seventy-eight percent of PET bottles manufactured go into the landfill.''
However, industry officials said the containers are recyclable, and amber-material markets exist.
Kentucky officials said the law does not give them any enforcement power to require multilayered containers to be labeled a 1. Industry officials said that multilayered PET containers already are being sold in Kentucky labeled with a 1.