A California proposal would apply a 2 cent fee on every disposable plastic bag or cup distributed in the state. A coalition of plastics-related trade associations and end users has formed to oppose the measure, which is part of Assembly Bill 586.
Environmental advocacy group Californians Against Waste Inc. is promoting the bill through Assemblyman Paul Koretz, D-West Hollywood. Koretz added the proposal as an amendment to an existing bill in mid-April.
The change could generate annual fees of $200 million, Mark Murray, CAW executive director, said in a telephone interview.
Murray wanted a fee of 5 cents per bag or cup. ``I want to encourage retailers to support reusable cups and bags,'' he said.
The fee would apply to most bags at grocers, retailers, dry cleaners and carryout restaurants and a variety of disposable plastic, paper or plastic-coated paper cups.
Exempt bags would need to contain at least 40 percent post-consumer content, be reusable at least 1,000 times or hold a product such as meat with no other packaging.
Heading the opposing coalition are the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s Film and Bag Federation unit and the California Film Extruders and Converters Association. SPI is based in Washington and CFECA is in Newport Beach, Calif.
This bill is not good news, said Kevin Kelly, president of CFECA and chief executive officer of Emerald Packaging Inc. in Union City, Calif. ``I was startled to see it.'' Kelly saw the joint lobbying stance between FBF and CFECA as ``a positive step forward'' for the groups, demonstrating ``a level of cooperation not there before.''
Kelly said the pending plastics white paper in California provided a wake-up call to the problem.
``Industry needs to do more ... [and] must start voluntary diversion programs to reduce marine debris and the litter problem,'' he said.
The American Chemistry Council Inc. will oppose the proposal on behalf of its plastics processing members, said Tim Shestek, director of state and local public affairs with ACC's Sacramento-based western region. ACC is based in Arlington, Va.
``The financial burden would be astronomical,'' Shestek said. ``We don't think it would be workable.'' If enacted, the bill would require changes in cash register software, and retail clerks would have to know what constitutes a 40 percent recycled bag, Shestek said.
``We have spent a great deal of money on litter education and cleanup activities,'' Shestek said. The state should review those programs and, if necessary, redirect funding to other, more workable programs.
While California's budget faces a massive revenue shortfall, CAW said the legislation levies a fee rather than a tax. Technically, a fee can generate only enough money to deal with the problem, Murray said. If more is generated, ``it becomes a tax and is subject to a two-thirds vote'' of the Legislature.
Sacramento-based CAW wants to apply EPA's concept of Total Maximum Daily Loads of environmental pollution to plastic bags and cups. TMDLs are applied to chemical discharges into waterways and the atmosphere.
The state would apply revenues from the fee toward the reduction, cleanup and recycling of disposable bag and cup litter and marine debris.
Cities and counties could obtain block grants to fund anti-litter programs.
The Assembly's Natural Resources Committee was to consider the bill at an April 28 hearing in Sacramento.