A California state agency may require more companies to use recycled plastic in containers.
The California Integrated Waste Management Board may change how it interprets a state law governing plastic containers. The shift would add more types of containers to the list that must use recycled content, including pails and containers with metal handles.
State officials said they are closing loopholes in their Rigid Plastic Packaging Container program, and trying to spur market development in plastic recycling.
But some firms and industry officials question whether boosting recycled content to the 25 percent level called for in the RPPC law is technically feasible in some of the cases, and whether enough recycled material is available.
``We're going to be bringing more containers in [to the program], but we still have problems getting enough material,'' said Tim Shestek, director of public affairs with the American Plastics Council's office in Sacramento, Calif. ``Maybe we ought to work on that before we jump to expanding the program.''
One of the biggest changes would involve 5-gallon containers and pails.
Currently, many of those containers are exempt because, companies argue, the containers actually are manufactured slightly larger than 5 gallons, to make filling easier. The board has endorsed that interpretation since the law came into effect in the mid-1990s. But now the board is saying containers designed to hold 5 gallons should be covered.
``We do not feel we are expanding the scope,'' said board staffer Jan Howard, speaking at a Sept. 27 public meeting on the proposal. ``We feel we are just clarifying.''
Dennis Griesing, vice president of government affairs with the Soap and Detergent Association in Washington, said the waste board lacks the authority to make that change and must get the Legislature to rewrite the law.
High density polyethylene pail manufacturer Norton Packaging Inc. in Hayward, Calif., said its 5.2-gallon injection molded pails would be affected by such a change.
Putting 25 percent post-consumer content in a pail makes it less structurally sound, said Joe Schrick, manager of the company's Los Angeles facility.
Speaking at the hearing, Norton officials instead urged the board to look at a program in Wisconsin that requires pails sold in that state to have 10 percent recycled content. The company has not had problems meeting that law because recycled content does not tend to weaken the pails until it exceeds 15 percent, Schrick said.
Norton has two injection molding plants in California, and claims it is the state's largest plastic pail maker.
Another change the board is considering would require metal-handled plastic containers to be covered by the law. Currently, they are not, but the identical plastic container with a plastic handle would be covered, a loophole the board staff said they want to close.
Part of the problem, industry officials said, is that many of the containers the board now wants to cover are injection molded, and it's tougher to use significant quantities of recycled resin in injection molded containers than in blow molded bottles.
State officials said at the hearing that they are in the early stages of considering the changes, and plan to continue talking with industry. But they also said that if companies are having a hard time finding recycled material, they should do more to boost supplies.
The board has scheduled two days of public hearings Oct. 11-12 in Sacramento to look at how to boost recycling of plastic containers and film.