Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Referendum’s Success Shows APBA Doesn’t Stand Alone in Fight against SB 270

apba-logoEdgeSPI and the plastics industry have always supported the American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA). Its efforts to educate lawmakers and the public about the economic and environmental dangers of plastic bag bans and taxes are vital to the continued success and growth of our industry. But we aren’t the only ones standing behind the APBA, as their recent success in qualifying a referendum to repeal California State Bill 270 shows.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced Tuesday that a measure to repeal SB 270 would appear on the ballot in November 2016, and that the law’s implementation would be delayed until voters have their say. According to county registrars, at least 555,236 valid signatures were needed to qualify the referendum by random sampling, and that threshold was exceeded Tuesday.

In addition to more than a half million Californians, a coalition of business and taxpayer groups has formed in support of the repeal measure, including:

  • Alliance of Contra Costa Taxpayers
  • American Forest & Paper Association
  • Calaveras County Taxpayers Association
  • California Taxpayer Protection Committee
  • Contra Costa Taxpayers Association
  • Fullerton Association of Concerned Taxpayers
  • Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
  • Humboldt County Taxpayers League
  • Inland Empire Taxpayers Association
  • International Faith Based Coalition
  • National Federation of Independent Business
  • Orange County Taxpayers Association
  • Placer County Taxpayers Association
  • Retailers and Store Owners United to Rebuild California’s Economy
  • Sacramento Taxpayers Association
  • San Diego Tax Fighters
  • San Joaquin County Taxpayers Association, Inc.
  • So Cal Tax Revolt Coalition Inc.
  • Solano County Taxpayers Association
  • Sutter County Taxpayers Association
  • Ventura County Taxpayers Association

“SB 270 is a de facto multimillion dollar tax on California’s small businesses and shoppers. Voters should be thrilled to have the opportunity to reverse it,” said John Kabateck, California Executive Director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

In addition to suspending the law until after votes are cast in November 2016, qualifying the referendum will also save hundreds of thousands in taxpayer dollars that would otherwise be wasted on state administrative costs associated with implementation of the bill. According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office over $700,000 would need to be allocated from the state budget to fund administrative positions from 2015-2018.

“SB 270 was never a bill about the environment. It was a backroom deal between the California Grocers Association and their union friends to scam consumers out of billions of dollars in bag fees—all under the guise of environmentalism,” said Lee Califf, Executive Director of the APBA. “California voters will now have the chance to vote down a terrible law that, if implemented, would kill 2,000 local manufacturing jobs and funnel obscene profits to big grocers without any money going to a public purpose or environmental initiative.“

“It’s outrageous that California legislators voted to kill California jobs just to line the pockets of big grocers and their labor union supporters. But the APBA is proud to defend these workers and we remain confident California voters will reject the bag ban scam at the ballot box in November 2016,” he added.

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

A Deep Dive: SPI Calls on Plastics Companies and Consumers to Prevent Marine Debris

FriendlyTurtle_AnimatedWebA report released by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at the University of Southern California, Santa Barbara, and recently published in Science magazine provided an estimate of the amount of debris found in the planet’s oceans. William R. Carteaux, president and CEO of SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association, issued this statement in response to the report:

“The pursuit of zero waste is chief among the goals set forth by SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association. We’re working with our members to establish practices and policies that will result in plastics products designed with expanded end of life and collection opportunities.

“Ocean litter is a global problem that threatens our health, our marine wildlife and the livelihoods of millions who depend on a healthy ocean. SPI and other plastics industry trade associations are working to combat these problems, both by taking actions to stop plastic materials from entering the marine environment and by promoting a change in attitudes to prevent the waste of plastic materials.

“SPI has always worked to support efforts to keep our oceans and waterways free of plastic debris. Nearly 30 years ago, our association helped organize the nation’s first formal beach cleanup as part of the International Coastal Cleanup Campaign, organized by the Ocean Conservancy. That event has grown from its humble beginnings on a Texas beach to a worldwide event that garners participation from more than 650,000 volunteers and removes millions of pounds of trash from beaches around the world.

William R. Carteaux, President and CEO, SPI

William R. Carteaux, President and CEO, SPI

“More than 20 years ago, we founded Operation Clean Sweep (OCS), one of SPI’s most successful programs. OCS is an industry stewardship program specifically designed to prevent resin pellet loss and help keep pellets out of the marine environment. The tools it provides to the plastics industry are being used in thousands of plants across the globe, and by all indications the program is working. Last year a study by the SEA Association documented an 80 percent decrease in concentration of pellets in the water from 1986 to 2010.

“SPI is proud to have contributed to these efforts, and continues to promote their use internationally, working with the American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Division to provide a royalty-free license to any global plastics organization that would like to implement the program. But we also support the cause of eliminating marine debris by supporting recycling and educating the public about the value of plastic materials. SPI works tirelessly to create new markets for recycled plastic materials, and to spur innovation that makes recycling plastic products easier and more widespread for all consumers and for all types of plastics, from polystyrene foams to rigid packaging to plastic bags and everything in between.

“SPI will continue to work and collaborate with other industry organizations to facilitate programs that increase recycling and eliminate the loss of plastic pellets and materials that end up in our oceans and waterways. By working together, we can drive the meaningful recovery of plastics products that will stop marine debris at its source.”

Monday, February 9th, 2015

SPI President and CEO: Super Bowl Waste Management Ad Misleads on Plastic Bag Recycling

By SPI President and CEO William R. Carteaux

A Waste Management advertisement that ran during the 2015 Super Bowl incorrectly suggested that plastic bags aren’t recyclable. They very much are. In fact, the lightweight plastic bags the ad suggests aren’t recyclable are 100% recyclable, thanks in great part to a number of programs put together by the plastics industry and its partners.

Some background on the ad: Waste Management created the spot as part of its “Recycle Often. Recycle Right.” campaign. The initiative’s goals are noble—improving quality at the curb, reducing contamination in materials recovery facilities (MRFs) and for recyclers. These goals are shared part and parcel by SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association, at least until they get to the point where they suggest that plastic bags should be treated like trash. The ad in question depicts two animated curbside bins, one for recycling and one for garbage. The recycling one appears to be choking on a plastic retail bag, which it then coughs up as a voice says “not all plastics can be recycled” and the bag is collected by the other bin, the one made for garbage.

William R. Carteaux, President and CEO, SPI

William R. Carteaux, President and CEO, SPI

Waste Management sacrificed the facts for the sake of cuteness. Plastic bags are typically made from low-density polyethylene, a material that’s 100% recyclable. For example, one company, NOVOLEX, a member of SPI and the SPI-supported American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA), created a program years ago called “Bag-2-Bag,” which established over 30,000 plastic bag, film and wrap recycling points at grocery stores and retailers across the country. Customers can, and do, take their plastic bags back to these stations the next time they go shopping, and NOVOLEX can, and does, collect them and recycle them into new bags. Each year the company recycles more than 35 million pounds of plastic bags and polyethylene films (including product wrapping and dry cleaner bags) into new bags and other eco-friendly raw materials, demonstrating that these products are quite recyclable.

If Waste Management’s problem with plastic bags is that, when included in the recycling stream, they can gum up their machines and the operation of the MRFs, there are two solutions: they can buy equipment that enables them to recover plastic bags in the MRF environment (technologies that enable this are widely employed in Europe and in select MRFs in North America) and they can work with SPI and the APBA to educate consumers to recycle these materials properly through return-to-retail collection locations.

SPI applauds Waste Management for its dedication to sustainable practices and raising public awareness about recycling, but that’s what makes this ad such a disappointment. Rather than misleading the public, we should be working together to make plastic bag recycling easier and widespread. That way this valuable material can go on to have a second life as a new bag or another product, like plastic lumber. If the public listened to Waste Management’s Super Bowl ad, the effects could be devastating, and instead of slowing down operations in Waste Management’s MRFs or ending up in the appropriate recycling receptacles, plastic bags could end up in Waste Management’s landfills.

Plastic bags often don’t belong in a typical recycling bin, sure, but they also don’t belong in a landfill. Let’s work together to eliminate misconceptions about plastic bag recycling, and increase plastic bag recycling education.

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

SPI, Dart Container Offer Recycling Exit Strategy for EPS Plastic Foam Materials

For Dart, a leading manufacturer of single-use foodservice material, among numerous other plastic products, New York City’s decision to ban plastic foam has raised questions, but hasn’t weakened their resolve to correct some of the most pernicious myths about this material.

“We’re still talking about it and determining our next steps,” said Christine Cassidy, recycling manager at Dart Container. “Dart is one of the leading manufacturers of single-use foodservice material and about half of it is foam. We also manufacture paper, rigid plastic and compostable products. If we’re sending it out to customers we want to make sure they have outlets to recover it at the end of the day,” she said.

This commitment to providing end-of-life opportunities for their products doesn’t prevent legislatures like New York’s from acting rashly, or, given the city council’s central assertion, from acting on false information. “A lot of people say it can’t be recycled, like New York did,” Cassidy said, “but that is not true.”

Dart Container’s PS foam recycling support includes collection/shipping containers.

Dart Container’s PS foam recycling support includes collection/shipping containers.

SPI’s Recycling Committee continually aims to combat falsehoods about plastic materials and their recyclability. But in addition to campaigning against misinformation, like the kind on which New York based its EPS ban, the Recycling Committee works to make recycling easier, and more widespread. Most recently it contributed to this effort with its EPS Recycling Equipment Guide, which offers materials recovery facilities (MRFs) across the country a useful tool for purchasing the equipment they need to make EPS recycling a part of their operations.

“It’s not too much equipment,” Cassidy said, offering a counterpoint to EPS recycling opponents who argue that the process is too expensive or too complicated for EPS recycling to go mainstream. The more widespread this equipment becomes at MRFs nationwide, the more easily this material can be recycled through curbside programs, Cassidy added. “With something like curbside recycling, you can add EPS into the bins and it’ll get collected just like paper, plastic and glass, and it’s sorted just like all those other materials at the MRF,” she said, noting that “NYC found adding EPS to their recycling program would not increase mileage or routes on their collection trucks. Haulers typically operate using a certain amount of weight as a threshold. Once a truck has accumulated enough weight, they have to trek to the MRF and drop off what they have. “With foam it’s lightweight so it is able to travel in the unused space on the truck,” Cassidy said. “EPS is only 1 percent of the waste stream.” Like other material bans elsewhere in the country, the good intentions of policymakers don’t exactly translate into real environmental benefits. For example, New York’s ban on foam only applies to foodservice foam, meaning takeout containers and things of that nature, but not egg cartons or meat trays, or the type of foam used to package electronics. “Those aren’t part of the ban,” Cassidy said. “It’s a small fraction of what foam is out there.”

This is an important point. While proponents like the simplicity of material bans, it’s hard to consider them a success when so much material still ends up going to the landfill, rather than to a recycling facility. “They’re really not accomplishing much with the ban,” Cassidy deadpanned. “If they really wanted to do something meaningful, they should have accepted the offer to have it recycled.”

Public education is a great deal of the battle for Dart, and for SPI’s Recycling Committee. “I find that many people do not understand the benefits of foam or that it can be recycled. They usually do not have an alternative once they ban it. Compostable cups are an alternative only if public composting is available and consumer dispose of it in the right way. If not, it is just going to a landfill.” Cassidy said. “You’re saying ban a product that Dart is willing to help the city and municipality recycle, in order to go to a product that you’re going to send to the landfill.”

Laws like New York’s never seem to think beyond the ban; they don’t provide an exit strategy for the material that inevitably comes to take the place when plastic materials are no longer allowed. “If you ban it, what are you going to do with the replacements?” Cassidy said. “Right now many communities don’t have a solution.” All the excitement about material bans seems to drown out that fact; in the long run, whatever material is banned needs to be replaced by something. People won’t start drinking coffee straight from the pot just because they can’t find an EPS cup. The only real solution that provides a plan for what to do with all of these materials at the end of their usefulness is recycling or composting. “New York City only banned a minority of the foam in the city, and they’re landfilling the majority of it,” Cassidy said. “If they went with a recycling program, they’d be able to recycle 100 percent.”

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

SPI, APBA Applaud Huntington Beach’s Move to Repeal Plastic Bag Ban

A great deal of attention has been paid to how much public support plastic bag bans and taxes supposedly enjoy, and how effective these statutes allegedly are. But the recent experience of Huntington Beach, CA might go a long way toward disproving this pernicious myth.Plastic-Bags-Closeup-260w

Huntington Beach, CA – also known as “Surf City, USA” – recently made headlines for taking steps to repeal its existing bag ban. Why would it do such a thing? Because plastic bag bans are unpopular with businesses and consumers and an ineffective attempt to reduce litter and minimize environmental impact.

Even in California, home of the nation’s only enacted statewide ban on plastic bags, plastic bag ordinances are so unpopular as to compel the Huntington Beach City Council to vote 6-1 to repeal their local bag ban. Californians’ general distaste for the state’s bag ban was evidenced by the fact that state legislators had to make a backroom deal with the grocers, who stand to earn hundreds of millions of dollars in annual profits if the law is enacted, to force passage of the statewide provision. That’s because the California state legislature had no overwhelming public mandate, and the bill couldn’t be buoyed through the legislature by the support of ordinary Californians.

Moreover, plastic bag bans do not have a discernible impact on litter. This fact was cited by Huntington Beach Councilman Mike Posey when discussing the reasoning behind Surf City’s repeal. SPI and the APBA have said this time and again: the time and effort that go toward supporting and enacting bag bans and taxes would be far better spent advocating for expanded recycling, litter reduction and education, which have the potential to make a meaningful difference. As Posey recently mentioned in a recent article in Breitbart News:

I believe in protecting the environment, and I treasure the beach, ocean, air and environment. I drive a clean diesel-powered car and telecommute a few days per week. I am not necessarily an environmentalist but am steadfastly environmentally conscious. I also value freedom. However, litter from plastic bags is caused by misuse and not use, and I object to punishing everyone because some people choose to litter.

SPI and the APBA applaud Posey and the Huntington Beach City Council for recognizing that plastic bag bans are neither supported by the public nor effective at reducing environmental impact. We hope this example will serve as a wake-up call to other municipalities and encourage them to abandon the ineffectiveness of bag taxes and bans and join us in implementing real world solutions that increase recycling and eliminate litter.