Plastic container makers in California could face stricter requirements for using recycled content or reducing waste, under legislation signed Sept. 16 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The bill tells the California Integrated Waste Management Board to stop calculating a recycling rate for plastic containers. While the move is designed to save the state money, it could subject container makers and consumer-product companies to stricter requirements to prove they are using recycled plastic or cutting the amount used in each container.
California requires nonfood container makers to use recycled content or take other steps the state considers environmentally friendly, if the recycling rate for plastic containers falls below 25 percent.
Since the new law tells the state to stop calculating the rate, companies could have to prove compliance every year.
Supporters of the new law, such as environmental group Californians Against Waste, said it will boost demand for recycled plastic. Waste board officials supported the change because they said they are having difficulty collecting good data for a recycling-rate calculation, in part because industry-provided data is getting more difficult to work with.
Industry groups like the American Plastics Council, the Soap and Detergent Association and a coalition known as the California Packaging Alliance opposed the law because they said it would burden companies.
Still, it was hard to argue against the bill because it would save the state several hundred thousand dollars a year, said Tim Shestek, an APC lobbyist in Sacramento.
Randy Pollack, a Sacramento SDA lobbyist, said one member company has 600 product lines that have to be certified.
``I've had companies say, `I'm getting tired of dealing with this and I'm not going to market in California,' '' he said.
The waste board decided in June not to require that companies certify 2003 results, even though it found that the recycling rate was only 23.9 percent.
Board action has tended to lag the market by a few years. The agency currently is examining 75 companies to see if they were in compliance in 2001, for example.
Schwarzenegger also took action recently on other plastics-related legislation by:
* Signing a bill that requires plastic bags labeled compostable, degradable or biodegradable to meet standards developed by the American Society for Testing and Materials. The plastic bag industry supported that bill.
* Vetoing a bill that would have required the waste board to post on its Web site a list of plastic trash bag makers that do not comply with the state's recycled-content law. Schwarzenegger said the bill was redundant because the board already does that.
* Vetoing a bill that would have created a ``certified green business program.'' Arlington, Va.-based APC and its parent group, the American Chemistry Council, opposed the bill because they said it excluded companies using some chemicals or hazardous materials. Schwarzenegger said the bill was not flexible enough for local governments.