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California nixes plastic ocean debris bill

A California bill that would have required manufacturers to figure out how to keep the most common post-consumer plastic out of state waterways has died in the state Assembly without a vote.


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May 27, 2013 by Canadian Plastics

A California bill that would have required manufacturers to figure out how to keep the most common post-consumer plastic out of state waterways has died in the state Assembly without a vote.

Assembly Bill 521 was before the chamber’s Appropriations Committee late last week, and the panel failed to act on it, effectively killing the legislation for the session.

It had previously passed the Assembly Natural Resource Committee.

Supporters said the idea was to influence the private sector to make more environmentally friendly packaging and have businesses pick up the cost of collecting and disposing plastic trash, shifting that burden away from local governments. “Cities and counties spend hundreds of millions of dollars per year cleaning up plastic trash that is on its way into the ocean,” said state Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Monterey Bay, one of the bill’s sponsors. “Isn’t an increased cost tied to a making a new product that is causing a problem better than a taxpayer paying for it after it becomes a problem?”

But even before it was rejected, the bill drew fire from others: the plastic industry, California Chamber of Commerce and other business lined up in opposition to it, saying they already fund recycling and other programs to reduce marine plastic pollution. Plus, they said, the bill asked manufacturers to develop new products or other ways to reduce trash, but didn’t say how. “This bill would establish responsibility for manufacturers alone to somehow reduce litter, and it’s unclear how the manufacturers might do that,” Keith Christman, of the Washington DC-based industry group the American Chemistry Council, said last week. “This is something that traditionally was a function of government working with the private sector, but this bill seeks to put all the responsibility on manufacturers.”