Industry groups see potential red flags in an emerging white paper about plastics recycling within California.
The consultant doing the study, NewPoint Group Inc., had touted the project as an independent analysis, but plastics officials involved in a variety of processes and markets are worried about what they consider anti-plastics biases in the project.
NewPoint held a workshop in Sacramento on June 24-25, and portions of the discussion surprised the Polystyrene Packaging Council.
``We were very concerned and troubled that NewPoint allowed an unscheduled presentation that was against PS - linking PS to litter and calling for a ban on PS - without an adequate chance to present our case,'' said Ray Ehrlich, director of environment, health and safety with the Arlington, Va.-based unit of the American Plastics Council. It is ``extremely shortsighted to hold any one material responsible for the careless habits'' of individuals.
The Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers of Crofton, Md., questioned whether NewPoint representatives understood the plastics industry's recycling efforts or, possibly, had a mind-set that dismissed those contributions. Betsy Steiner, AFPR executive director, suggested that the analysts tackle a few key issues, such as ways to improve collection mechanisms.
NewPoint presentations included discussions of Florida's advance disposal fee, the German Green Dot system and product bans such as that involving the former McDonald's Corp. PS clamshell packaging.
The possibility of taxing plastics processors for the cost of litter removal struck a nerve with the California Film Extruders & Converters Association of Newport Beach, Calif.
``Suggesting a tax on manufacturers will solve the [litter] problem is crazy,'' Kevin Kelly said in his July column in the group's Die-Line newsletter. Kelly is president of CFECA and chief executive officer of Emerald Packaging Inc. in Union City, Calif.
``A tax of any sort on manufacturers will spell the end for companies in the state - especially when rivals in other states are not subject to the same fines,'' Kelly said.
The Rigid Plastic Packaging Institute is concerned that regulators continue to understand the Food and Drug Administration requirements for food packaging.
``We have had an exemption [from recycled-content requirements] in the past,'' said John Hausoul, RPPI executive director in Elmhurst, Ill. If food packaging makers lose the exemption, he thinks their costs will skyrocket.
The California Integrated Waste Management Board and the state Department of Conservation contracted with Sacramento-based NewPoint in May 2001 to develop the white paper. The objectives: conserve resources, increase recycling rates and boost the use of recycled plastics. An analysis draft is due in August.
``I think they diverted from conserving resources'' and placed a disproportionate emphasis on recycling, said Tim Shestek, western region director of state and local public affairs in Sacramento for the American Chemistry Council Inc., including its American Plastics Council unit.
``I think they are going off-track from the original intent,'' he said. ``They didn't reach the objective of a harmonious two-day workshop.''
During a post-workshop comment period, NewPoint received more than 10 letters from national and state industry and business groups, the state Water Resources Control Board and community organizations such as the Berkeley Plastics Task Force.
``All will be put together in a separate volume of comments,'' said Wendy Pratt, NewPoint senior associate. Once the draft is submitted, NewPoint intends to post the report on CIWMB's Web site.
After that, CIWMB's special waste and market development committee and the Department of Conservation's recycling division will review the draft, with CIWMB scheduled to consider the paper in November.
Shestek said he submitted comments in March about conserving resources.
He noted plastics' unique characteristics such as its light weight, durability and capability of being produced ``with less energy than other packaging materials,'' but the information was not reflected in NewPoint's presentation, Shestek said.
NewPoint, however, has indicated an intention to take all information into account.