The plastic bag sector is fighting simultaneous battles in California: at the capitol in Sacramento, in courtrooms across the state and at the grass-roots level.
A coalition of plastics industry organizations, including the California Film Extruders and Converters Association, the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., the American Chemistry Council and SaveThePlasticBag.com, are working to sway public opinion in a state where communities and the Legislature have proposed a variety of bag bans and taxes.
Kevin Kelly drew a line between what he considers reasonable fees on plastics bags 1-2 cents and the 25 cent fee in certain pending California legislation.
Kelly is vice president of Rolling Hills, Calif.-based CFECA, chairman of its legislative committee and, in his day job, CEO of Emerald Packaging Inc. of Union City, Calif.
I think we have another year of fights on our hands in Sacramento, and the [industry] coalition of plastic organizations SPI, ACC and CFECA is working to defeat certain bills and support others, Kelly said. SPI is based in Washington and ACC is in Arlington, Va.
None of the trade associations is being obstinate, Kelly said. We all want to deal with the litter issue and recycling.
Assembly Bills 68 and 87, now pending in the chamber's appropriations committee, call for a 25 cent bag-pollution cleanup fee on any type of single-use carryout bag, starting in July 2010. Democrat Assembly members authored the bills: Julia Brownley of Woodland Hills for AB 68 and Mike Davis of Los Angeles for AB 87. The Assembly's natural resources committee approved each bill on 6-3 votes April 13.
Meanwhile, backers of a California-focused group, SaveThePlasticBag.com, are hoping to make their case through a pending, state-funded environmental assessment.
At an April 23 meeting in Sacramento, members of the Oakland-based California Ocean Protection Council moved to authorize spending up to $60,000 for a master environment assessment to determine impacts related to regulation of single-use bags plastic and paper and reusable bags.
OPC expects to file a peer-reviewed final report before April.
All of the individuals involved in the [SaveThePlasticBag] coalition have a desire to stop the misinformation campaign about plastics and plastic bags, said Stephen Joseph, lawyer and manager for the San Francisco-based organization. We desperately want an environmental impact report in which the [findings] must be based on substantial evidence.
Joseph promised litigation if his group determines that the content in the upcoming assessment is unfounded, unproven and lacking in or misrepresenting facts.
We will hold their feet to the fire [and] make sure all topics are properly addressed, he said.
In February, the coalition won a lawsuit against Manhattan Beach, Calif., which is appealing the decision. They took action without an environmental impact report, Joseph noted.
The coalition filed suit recently against Palo Alto and has litigation pending against Los Angeles County.
Members of the group include manufacturers, distributors and individuals, Joseph said. The coalition has a large number of members, but he withheld the specific numbers.
Nationwide, plastic bag manufacturers employ about 4,200, and their production accounts for about 85 percent of the plastic bags consumed in the U.S. market, according to Joseph.
Opponents are trying to put the whole industry out of business, Joseph said. They don't care about facts or truth, he said.
California-based plastic bag makers Crown Poly Inc. of Huntington Beach, Command Packaging of Vernon and Elkay Plastics Co. Inc. of Commerce founded the coalition, which launched its information campaign in June 2008.
Joseph noted that the coalition is challenging environmentalists on whether their statements about plastic bags are factual.
After a year, there is a lot less focus exclusively on plastics, as the debate now includes the environmental impact of paper and reusable bags. The environmentalists have become less brazen in claims about pollution, he said.