Expecting that California's landmark plastics legislation will pass soon, the American Chemistry Council on June 29 called for supporters of a separate but related ballot referendum to withdraw the measure.
In a statement released as legislators appeared to be heading toward passing the bill, ACC's Vice President of Plastics Joshua Baca said that "it's beyond time for the ballot measure proponents to make their intentions clear and withdraw the ballot."
The legislation, known as Senate Bill 54, easily passed an Assembly committee June 29 and is expected to be taken up by the full Assembly and Senate in votes ahead of a deadline of June 30 to withdraw the ballot referendum.
"The bill may not be perfect, as we've outlined, but we've been engaged and involved," Baca said in an interview. "It's not the optimal bill that we would like. We appreciate what Sen. [Ben] Allen [the lead author] and has team have tried to do. They are in a tough spot.
"But now as part of this deal, I think it's really important that proponents of this ballot live up to their end of the bargain," Baca said.
In its statement, ACC outlined several concerns with the legislation and said it was "not optimal." The association also said it would continue to work constructively with lawmakers and with the state agency CalRecycle on the complex implementation of the plan.
ACC said it was concerned with language in the latest version of the bill that's not favorable toward chemical recycling, which ACC maintains is crucial to boosting recycling rates, particularly for harder-to-handle materials.
In a June 28 hearing some California lawmakers expressed concern with chemical recycling facilities in the state, saying they were worried about industrial pollution from the plants.
Baca said ACC feels that language in earlier drafts of the bill, which was unveiled June 16 but then amended several times, was more favorable toward chemical recycling.
As well, ACC said it has concerns with a carve-out in the legislation from the extended producer responsibility system for materials that have a recycling rate of more than 65 percent, which is seen as intended for the paper industry since it's recycling rate is higher than that.
Baca also said ACC says language spelling out source reduction credits could create incentives to cap post-consumer content use at 8 percent in some products. That would create incentives for materials with a higher carbon footprint, Baca said.
"These are hard issues," Baca said, noting that ACC has been negotiating on the bill for 18 months. "I'm most proud of our members for encouraging us and staying engaged in every stop of the process."
ACC said it was concerned that the ballot initiative could still go forward, even if the bill becomes law. Baca pointed to statements from Allen and others that the ballot plan would be withdrawn if the legislation passes. ACC does not want both measures moving forward.
It is a complex process, however, because Allen and legislators do not control the ultimate decision to withdraw the referendum by a June 30 deadline. That is controlled by ballot campaigners and three signatories to the referendum campaign.
"Enactment of SB 54 and potential passage of the anti-plastics initiative would result in confusion, uncertainty and implementation chaos that would ultimately hurt California consumers," ACC said.
"Despite SB 54's flaws, a worse outcome for Californians is the ballot measure," ACC said. "If it is not withdrawn, our industry is resolved to educate voters of the tax measure's flaws through a strong opposition campaign."