The California budget crisis is making it hard for legislators, activists and anti-plastics advocates to push through any plastic packaging bans or fees this legislative session, with only two proposals still clinging to life: one banning single-use PVC consumer packaging, and another requiring single-use beverage containers to have attached caps.
Both bills are awaiting Senate floor action, after passing in the state Assembly and through the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality, albeit with several amendments making the bills weaker than originally proposed.
Because of the economy and state budget crisis, it is very difficult to enact any legislation this session that could lead to the loss of jobs or place an additional cost on consumers, said one California legislative source. Some legislators are pulling bills from consideration and turning them into two-year bills, he added, because Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he will not sign any legislation until the state resolves its budget crisis.
The PVC bill, AB 1329, would ban single-use recyclable PVC packaging containers after July 1, 2014. That's 18 months after the bill's original proposed implementation date, plus the bill now contains a number of exemptions that essentially reduce the ban to PVC consumer goods, food or beverage packaging.
The bill would exempt PVC containers used solely in transportation that do not end up in the hands of consumers, containers used for transportation and protection of building materials, containers used for drugs that are dangerous as defined by several codes and laws, containers used to package medical devices and containers that are filled with petroleum-based products used on or in motor vehicles.
The PVC packaging it proposes to ban is packaging that holds a consumer good, food or beverage and is in the shape of a bottle, clamshell, sack, cup, bowl, or is shrink or stretch wrap.
Both the PVC bill and the proposal to require affixed caps on single-use beverage bottles had second readings in the Senate July 8 and are awaiting their third reading, as yet unscheduled.
The cap bill, which originally applied to all single-use plastic beverages, now has several exemptions and has stripped out a provision that required beverages sold in California to have recyclable caps. The bill now only applies to containers that are 1 liter or less and excludes cups, open or loosely sealed receptacles, and lids with an opening to allow the beverage to be drunk with the cap on.
In early June, the California Legislature killed or made into two-year bills: a proposal to ban restaurants and food vendors from using polystyrene packaging containers, two separate bills that would have placed a 25-cent fee on plastic and paper single-use carryout bags, a proposal to mandate a 50 percent reduction in PVC packaging by 2011, and another to require special labeling on compostable plastics to make it easier to sort them for recycling.
An industry-backed producer responsibility bill that would have required manufacturers and distributors to pay one-hundredth of a cent for each single-use carryout bag they provide to stores was held in committee and killed.
A second producer responsibility bill was amended to focus on retailer education and training and passed the state Senate June 1. But it stalled in the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources and is not expected to progress.
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