The California Plastics White Paper is likely to result in important changes to the state's recycling policies - but the direction is a key detail that still is unresolved.
Industry groups, environmentalists and government officials added comments about the white paper draft during a Sept. 26 workshop in Sacramento. The public can suggest modifications to the California Integrated Waste Management Board through Oct. 7.
At its Dec. 10-11 meeting, CIWMB plans to accept the final white paper and approve a separate, legislative-mandated polystyrene report. CIWMB staff members are creating as many as 10 working groups to convert concepts in the two documents into action plans, said Calvin Young, manager of the white paper project. Some proposed actions are likely to call for legislative solutions.
The board intends to develop substantive policy options by April.
CIWMB and the state Department of Conservation commissioned the independent work last year and have invested about $100,000 to have Sacramento consultant NewPoint Group Inc. gather information and create the documents.
At the Sept. 26 workshop, environmentalist Mark Murray, executive director of Sacramento-based Californians Against Waste, said the draft lacks ``specific quantification'' about the cost of solutions.
Having dealt with plastic public policy for nearly 15 years, Murray said he expects disagreement about who will be responsible for dealing with plastics waste.
``Environmentalists, local governments, others on the public-policy side believe this is a producer responsibility, whereas manufacturers feel somehow that society or local government should have responsibility for dealing with the costs of this waste stream,'' Murray said.
He discouraged thoughts about collaboration.
``We're not able to solve the problem on our own,'' Murray said. ``We should be handing this off to [legislative] policy makers to make the tough choices.''
But CIWMB's Young sees the entire effort as a collaborative process that he said is breaking down traditional walls between interested parties and has been ``very productive.''
Young said he has heard recently from several Washington-based trade groups expressing a sudden interest in what the white paper may mean to members. The groups are not the usual plastics industry organizations, Young said.
A variety of interested parties have weighed in recently on the draft:
* Ken Farsing, city manager of Signal Hill, Calif., reinforced his earlier comments about coastal and offshore pollution - particularly related to PS - documented in the Southern California Ocean Research Project.
``That is something the Legislature and decision makers have to focus in on,'' Farsing said.
* Sacramento consultant Pete Price, representing Poly-America Inc. of Grand Prairie, Texas, questioned the report's thoroughness in dealing with biodegradable plastics. ``In our experience, biodegradable plastics are not effective in many applications.''
* The plastics industry may do itself a disservice ``by talking about plastics in such a broad context,'' suggested Tony Kingsbury, environmental business development manager with Dow Plastics in Midland, Mich. ``Do we talk about the aluminum industry or steel or copper or lead industry? Plastics aren't just plastics. They are polyethylene, they are polypropylene, polystyrene, polycarbonate, and all have different properties and are used in different applications.''
* Another plastics industry representative had praise for the PS report.
``We feel the report is an improvement and much more fair than the information we discussed at the workshops in June,'' said Raymond Ehrlich, director of environment, health and safety with the Arlington, Va.-based Polystyrene Packaging Council, a unit of the American Plastics Council.
Other groups praised a perceived balance in the draft documents.
Jim Gibson, NewPoint director, commended CIWMB and the conservation department for their leadership in allowing development of the white paper.
``We try to take a shot at everybody in this report and try to almost make a case [that] there is a lack of leadership in this area,'' Gibson said.
To date, ``we haven't seen any other state address this comprehensive issue ... and we haven't seen the federal level deal with it in this fashion.''