The fate of three critical pieces of California legislation that would impact plastic grocery bags, PVC packaging and plastic container deposits hinges on whether the bills can get voted out of their respective houses of origin by the end of May.
The trio of bills would ban PVC packaging, expand the existing bottle-deposit bill to include all plastic bottles, and amend the existing plastic bag recycling bill.
``It is a little too early to say what will happen,'' said Tim Shestek, director of state affairs and grass-roots initiatives for the American Chemistry Council in Arlington, Va. But he said the concern with the bills extends beyond the sizable California market.
``It is the domino effect that we have concerns about,'' Shestek said.
Since California mandated in-store plastic bag recycling, Chicago, New York City, Westchester and Albany counties in New York, and Suffolk, N.Y., all have mandated in-store recycling programs. Similarly, Washington and Vermont have enacted bans on phthalates in products intended for children since California approved its phthalate ban in October.
California's budget deficit and the upcoming legislative primaries also could affect whether these bills emerge. Two key sponsors, California Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, and Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, are up for re-election. With the state government facing a $14 billion deficit, legislators may be reluctant to pass bills that add costs to the state budget, Shestek said.
The bottle bill would extend the state's container redemption program to all plastic bottles, potentially adding another 6.3 billion bottles, and set an 80 percent beverage-container recycling target.
The bag recycling bill is an attempt to revise a state law that has been effective since July 1.
AB 2058, sponsored by Levine, would require retailers to recycle 70 percent of plastic bags in 2010. If they fail to reach that target, they would be required to charge at least 25 cents for plastic and paper carryout bags by July 1, 2011. The bill also would end the current prohibition on communities imposing bag taxes.
Shestek said industry is working to address the bag issue, pointing to in-store recycling efforts and the 529 recycling bins that ACC has placed on 15 California beaches since November. ``But we still have a long way to go to get people to understand that there is an end use to these things,'' he said.
But recycling is not the issue, said Bryan Early, plastic waste reduction campaign coordinator for Californians Against Waste in Sacramento. ``We are trying to prevent bags from becoming litter,'' he said.
Allen Blakey, senior director of public affairs for the Vinyl Institute, also in Arlington, called the PVC packaging ban ``a terrible bill.'' He pointed out that the proposal includes an extensive number of exemptions, for pharmaceutical products, medical de- vices, auto treatment products and petroleum product containers.