The California business environment for plastics remains tense with industry voicing displeasure, legislators contemplating taxes and fees and regulators eyeing expanded controls. Here are some developments:
* The business-backed Coalition for California Jobs held a June 5 news conference at the Los Angeles plant of extruded and blown film processor Coast Converters Inc. to decry more than four-dozen pending ``job killer'' bills. Officials of Coast talked about their pending relocations to North Las Vegas, Nev. Blow molder Bomatic Inc. of Ontario, Calif., officials talked about their relocation to St. George, Utah.
* The Assembly Natural Resources Committee plans further consideration this fall of an industry-feared 2 cent fee on most plastic bags and cups distributed in California. Assembly Bill 586 was held in committee in April.
* The California Integrated Waste Management Board will consider acceptance of the multifaceted plastics white paper and related staff recommendations at its June 17-18 meeting in Sacramento.
The Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s 2001 statistical report said the California plastics industry employed more than 150,000 - making California the largest plastics industry employer in the nation - and generated shipments with a value of $27.8 billion.
For the media event, the jobs coalition parked its Pink Slip Express van beneath Coast's for-sale sign and exhibited moving boxes with pink-colored slips of paper. Each slip described a selected ``anti-business bill'' that included proposals for stricter environmental and energy regulations, workplace mandates, authorization for more employment-related litigation and broader government programs.
The coalition is one among several industry efforts to bring better balance to what businesses see as an uneven playing field. Industry is beginning to take proactive steps to stem the legislative broadsides, worker compensation insurance premium hikes and continuing high-energy costs.
Mitch Greif, Coast chairman, voiced his criticism of California's business environment at the news conference. He anticipates saving at least $800,000 per year from lower Nevada taxes and worker compensation premiums and avoidance of California regulations he characterized as onerous.
Coast plans to begin moving its extrusion machines in July and have manufacturing operational and most of its 160 employees working in the North Las Vegas plant by October.
``We are installing the electrical infrastructure'' now, William Kauble, Coast president and chief executive officer, said by telephone. Coast has acquired and restarted a North Las Vegas extrusion operation and will move the Los Angeles manufacturing equipment to adjacent space.
Bomatic breaks ground in mid-June for a 100,000-square-foot plant in St. George and anticipates construction will conclude in February. ``Once moved in, we will do a slow migration'' of the manufacturing operations from Ontario, Kjeld Hestehave, Bomatic president, said by telephone. Some key persons among the plastic container maker's more than 100 employees are expected to move with the business.
Meanwhile, pressures continue. Bomatic's premiums for worker compensation insurance are scheduled to exceed $300,000 for the fiscal year beginning July 1, up from about $200,000 in the current fiscal year and $87,000 a year earlier, Hestehave said.
``We as an industry need to unite'' and exert meaningful influence beyond lobbying elected officials, Hestehave said.
More than 16 statewide industrial, technology, retail, construction, insurance, legal and distributor trade groups back the Sacramento-based Coalition for California Jobs.
The bag-cup fee proposal, AB 586, is ``alive and well'' and expected to get more attention in coming months, Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood), the bill's sponsor, said in a statement. ``We are very interested in organically based, biodegradable and compostable plastics,'' encourage the use of post-consumer materials and discourage the use of disposable plastics.
The bill asks retailers to ``share in the massive cost of cleaning up their disposable packaging,'' Koretz said. ``Business and industry must take responsibility for the total life cycle of what they are creating and stop hiding behind token industry-based recycling efforts intended only for public relations.''
Californians Against Waste Inc., a Sacramento-based environmental advocacy group, is a key promoter of AB 586. Laurie Hansen of Sacramento headed a joint lobbying effort of SPI's Film and Bag Federation unit and the California Film Extruders and Converters Association in opposing AB 586 at the committee hearing.
In the extensive plastics white paper, the CIWMB intends to consider moving forward on recommendations for what its staff calls ``a comprehensive and cohesive solution regarding plastics in California.'' In 2001, independent Sacramento consultant NewPoint Group Inc. began developing the paper under a contract from the CIWMB and the state Department of Conservation.
``At this point, the plastics white paper process has been far more collaborative and positive than industry expected,'' Kevin Kelly said by telephone. Kelly is president of Newport Beach, Calif.-based CFECA and chief executive officer of Emerald Packaging Inc. of Union City, Calif.
The paper's wide range of ongoing issues includes material collection and market development, public information, technology development and product stewardship and financial responsibility.
High-interest topics include legislation concerning trash bags and rigid plastic packaging containers, collection of agricultural and commercial films and potential uses of biodegradable, bio-based and compostable plastics.