Two prominent PET recycling companies are leaving the Association of Plastic Recyclers, arguing that the sector’s main trade group is not providing strong enough support on issues like recycled content legislation.
Verdeco Recycling Inc. and CarbonLite Industries LLC — who lobbied heavily for a tough recycled content law that passed the California Legislature in September — wrote in a Sept. 25 letter that APR should speak more forcefully.
“APR has not embraced fundamental changes in our industry and its position on minimum mandatory recycled content legislation is a prime example of why we have decided to leave the organization,” CarbonLite Chairman Leon Farahnik and Verdeco President and CEO Alex Delnik wrote in their resignation letter.
The two companies, who are prominent players in recycling PET back into food and beverage containers, argue that the commitments of brands like Coca-Cola Co. to use more recycled plastic and public pressure will shift the political environment for the industry.
And they noted in the letter that they produce half the recycled PET used in beverage containers in the United States.
APR President and CEO Steve Alexander said the association was “disappointed” in the companies leaving, and he said APR does advocate for recycled content, including for the new California law that Delnik and Farahnik also pushed for.
“APR was the first plastics-related organization to support minimum recycled content mandates, and we have continued to advocate for recycled content throughout the years,” Alexander said. “For example, in California’s most recent legislative session, we supported AB-792 — the [Assemblymember Philip] Ting bill — on minimum content from its introduction to enrollment.
“We continue to advocate on behalf of our industry and our members in urging the governor [Gavin Newsom] to sign this legislation,” Alexander said.
But both Los Angeles-based CarbonLite and South Gate, Calif.-based Verdeco said APR did not act forcefully enough.
Both companies and a few others in the industry formed a coalition and hired their own lobbyist, independent of APR, to push legislation in California.
They succeeded this year after falling short the last several years, with the Legislature in September passing what’s been called the world’s strongest plastic bottle recycled content law.
It requires all containers in the bottle bill, including PET, to have recycled content, starting at 10 percent in 2021, hitting 25 percent in 2025 and topping out at 50 percent in 2030.
But the Verdeco-CarbonLite coalition had wanted a stronger version of that law, requiring 75 percent recycled content by 2030.
APR did not support that version. It sent a so-called “support if amended” letter June 26 to California lawmakers supporting the concept of recycled content but saying the particulars of the 75 percent version were impractical.
APR’s position was similar to that taken by the American Beverage Association, the International Bottled Water Association and Plastic Recycling Corp. of California, a group of bottle makers.
They warned of major supply shortages and market havoc if beverage makers tried to go above 25 percent after 2025. APR said it would require significant investments in the state’s infrastructure to collect enough recycled plastic.
APR ultimately supported the version that passed, at 50 percent, as did the Verdeco-CarbonLite group.
The version that became law also added significant “off ramp” waivers for companies to avoid penalties in order to win support from the American Beverage Association.
Delnik, however, said those provisions removed some of the teeth from the law.
Delnik said APR should not have attached those conditions to its support of such legislation, calling it a “nonsupport letter of support” and saying recycling companies would benefit from the strongest legislation.
Verdeco and CarbonLite argue that the public pressure around plastics and ambitious commitments for recycled content plastic packaging from food and beverage companies creates opportunity for APR to pursue stronger policies.
“APR is at best an observer (occasionally a reluctant supporter) of these changes and we can’t recall any effort by APR to initiate a serious discussion within the organization on how APR should lead the industry during these transformational times,” the two companies wrote.
Regarding the recycled content legislation, they wrote: “Our repeated attempts over the last few years to engage APR leadership in serious conversations on the subject (in light of our legislative efforts in California) have been completely and utterly ignored.”