Unless it resurfaces as an amendment to an existing bill, a proposed 25 cent fee on plastic and paper single-use carryout bags in California is dead for 2009, along with several other plastic packaging-related proposals.
An industry-backed producer responsibility bill, which would have required manufacturers and distributors to pay .001 cent for each single-use carryout bag they provide to stores, died in committee. A separate producer responsibility bill advocated by the California Film Extruders and Converters Association has been amended by the state Senate to focus largely on education and training efforts.
Still under consideration are a bill that would phase out rigid PVC packaging by Jan. 1, 2013, and flexible PVC packaging by Jan. 1, 2014, and another measure that would require that caps be affixed to single-use plastic beverage bottles, jars, cans and cartons.
The Legislature will delay until 2010 discussing bills that would have banned restaurants and food vendors from using polystyrene packaging containers, mandated a 50 percent reduction in PVC packaging by 2011, and required compostable plastics to have special labeling to make it easier to sort them in a recycling stream.
Both the Senate and Assembly bills that had proposed a 25 cent fee on single-use carryout bags failed to meet a June 1 deadline for advancing to appropriations committees. They now become two-year bills that will remain inactive until the 2010 legislative session begins.
This demonstrates that politicians are being responsive to the mood of their voters and are unwilling to impose additional taxes on their constituents, said Shari Jackson, director of Progressive Bag Affiliates, which is part of the American Chemistry Council in Arlington, Va. I think California is now tracking the sentiment of the country which is not to place an additional tax on residents during this economic recession.
Legislators nationwide have largely rejected fees and bans proposed on plastic bags in 2009. But the Washington, D.C., City Council on June 2 approved a 5 cent fee on plastic and paper bags. That proposal still requires a second yes vote in two weeks before it becomes law.
Connecticut nixed a proposed 5 cent fee June 2, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg withdrew his proposed 6 cent fee in May and Philadelphia officials the same month rejected a proposed 25 cent fee.
Texas, Maryland and Maine also recently rejected proposed plastic bag fees from 5-15 cents.
Still pending is a proposed plastic bag ban in Sacramento County, and Seattle will have a special election Aug. 18 on whether to place a 20 cent fee on single-use plastic carryout bags.
In addition, a potential ban on single-use plastic bags is pending in Edmonds, Wash. City Council approved the ban June 3, pending an environmental review. A second vote is required before the ban can go into effect.
Nationwide, only Westport, Conn., and three California cities San Francisco, Malibu and Fairfax have bans on plastic bags. A ban in Manhattan Beach, Calif., was overturned in court, but the city is appealing that ruling.
The inability of the California Legislature to enact a 25 cent fee is a little disappointing, said Stephanie Barger, executive director of Earth Resource Foundation in Costa Mesa, Calif. She did not support the producer responsibility proposal ACC had backed.
Jackson said that an additional tax is not the right way to go. It is just a bad policy approach, and there is no overwhelming evidence that bans or taxes are working. This is the second year in a row that we are seeing a strong number of bills, but no ban or tax has been adopted at the state level.
Progressive Bag Affiliates, which includes the four major U.S. plastic carryout bag manufacturers, pledged in April to include 40 percent recycled content in bags by 2015.
That will help drive the market for recycled plastic bags and film, Jackson said. This is an opportunity for us to demonstrate that recycling is working.