Despite a flurry of bills in the California Legislature, the plastics industry appears to have escaped unscathed as the session nears its end.
The only plastics-related measure moving forward is a bill supported by the American Chemistry Council in Arlington, Va., that would put into place housekeeping requirements to clean up plastic pellets, a source of storm sewer debris. ACC had not supported previous pellet cleanup bills in past legislative sessions.
The state's most far-reaching anti-plastics measure - a ban on a variety of plastics in packaging - is still alive, but was made a two-year bill, giving it a different set of legislative deadlines. The bill passed the Senate, but was hung up in the Assembly. The measure would have banned companies from manufacturing, processing or distributing any plastics packaging ranging in size from 8 fluid ounces to 5 gallons that contain styrene, vinyl chloride, bisphenol A, perfluoroctanoic acid, nonylphenol or alkylphenol.
Two bills that would have banned expanded polystyrene foam packaging takeout containers died in early June.
The pellet cleanup bill, AB 258, has passed the Assembly, and is pending in the Senate Appropriations Committee, which will take up the measure when it returns Aug. 20 for three weeks before the it adjourns.
``The sense is that it will pass,'' said Tim Shestek, ACC chief lobbyist and director of state and local government affairs in Sacramento. ``I don't know anyone opposed to it. This is a rational step to address an issue that is an industry problem. If we can capture these pellets at the source, that is the way to do it.''
As currently written, the bill will require everyone who handles pellets to incorporate the best management principles of Operation Clean Sweep, a voluntary program of ACC and the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. that some 120 firms have agreed to use.
Specifically, companies would have to install screens on storm drains, use catch basins when unloading pellets from hopper cars, have vacuums available to employees handling pellets and use puncture- or tear-resistant containers to store or ship pellets. Such containers typically are heavy nylon bags or corrugated cardboard containers, he said.
The bill would go in effect Jan. 1. There is no small-business exemption. Enforcement would be under the jurisdiction of local and regional water boards under provisions related to the Clean Water Act and discharge standards.
Shestek said he thinks anti-plastics measures failed to succeed at the state level in 2007 - in contrast to bans that passed in local communities - because legislators looked more in-depth at both the marine litter proposal and polystyrene bans.
``A lot of the people in the Assembly had a hard time grasping what it would do for marine debris, what it would accomplish, and questioned whether there was a need for it,'' Shestek said.
With the proposed PS bans, he said, there was concern about ``how restaurants and other establishments would be able to comply'' with take-back provisions if there was a switch to paper, and whether there would be ``issues with health and sanitation.''
Shestek noted that some community recycling initiatives aimed at increasing recycling are under way in California, with the support of the industry.
In particular, Shestek pointed to an expanded recycling program that includes PS recycling in Los Angeles that began this month, ``which we are helping to support.'' In addition, he said ACC has made an unrestricted grant to Keep California Beautiful for improving education, signs and community involvement; promoting anti-litter campaigns; and initiating Proud Community programs.
``That is where our focus is,'' he said. ``We want to see how the recycling program runs in the Los Angeles area'' and extend industry efforts from there.
``We want to support cleanup programs, education programs - anything that gets at the source of litter,'' Shestek said.