An­other waste re­duc­tion bill will be on the bal­lot this year

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - FRONT PAGE - By Rachel Becker

Even the spe­cial in­ter­ests that helped kill a Cal­i­for­nia Se­nate bill aimed at re­form­ing bev­er­age bot­tle re­cy­cling say the state needs to fix its bro­ken sys­tem. And one law­maker who voted no on the bill says he might just in­tro­duce his own.

Au­thored by Demo­cratic state Sen. Bob Wieck­owski of Fre­mont, the Bev­er­age Con­tainer Re­cy­cling Act of 2020 would have re­quired bev­er­age dis­trib­u­tors to de­sign a new re­cy­cling pro­gram — and to help pay for it them­selves. But the bill failed a crit­i­cal junc­ture af­ter it fell four votes short of pas­sage.

Wieck­owski’s bill was one of a hand­ful aimed at ad­dress­ing two ma­jor prob­lems plagu­ing Cal­i­for­nia’s re­cy­cling in­dus­try. One is the tur­moil in global re­cy­cling mar­kets that kicked

off when China de­cided to stop im­port­ing much of the world’s waste. The sec­ond is the home-grown death of Cal­i­for­nia’s bot­tle re­cy­cling busi­nesses.

That’s the one Wieck­owski’s bill aimed to fix. “My hope was to re­shape the re­cy­cling in­dus­try in Cal­i­for­nia so that we have a sys­tem that makes it con­ve­nient for con­sumers,” Wieck­owski said. “No one — in Cal­i­for­nia or out­side Cal­i­for­nia — thinks that the cur­rent sys­tem in Cal­i­for­nia is work­ing.”

A new fo­cus: sin­gleuse pack­ag­ing

Spe­cial in­ter­ests and leg­is­la­tors in­stead are fo­cus­ing on a set of iden­ti­cal bills col­lec­tively called the Cal­i­for­nia Cir­cu­lar Econ­omy and Pol­lu­tion Re­duc­tion Act. The Act aims to curb waste from sin­gle-use pack­ag­ing and food ser­vice items like con­tain­ers, forks, and stir­rers that Cal­i­for­ni­ans use once, and then toss.

Spear­headed by Demo­cratic law­mak­ers Sen. Ben Allen from Santa Mon­ica and Assem­bly­woman Lorena Gon­za­lez of San Diego, the ef­fort calls for cut­ting three-quar­ters of the waste from these sin­gle-use prod­ucts in the next ten years. It also re­quires man­u­fac­tur­ers to make such items 100 per­cent com­postable or re­cy­clable start­ing in 2030.

Those bills are “the big game that we’ve been see­ing,” said Tim Sch­melzer, vice pres­i­dent of Cal­i­for­nia state re­la­tions at the Wine In­sti­tute, an ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion that rep­re­sents the Cal­i­for­nia wine in­dus­try.

Wieck­owski’s bill, Sch­melzer said, “was kind of an un­for­tu­nate dis­trac­tion here in Jan­uary, and we can get back to work on the real bills.”

Allen voted to pass Wieck­owski’s bill — say­ing it was an im­por­tant con­ver­sa­tion starter. “If any­thing, con­ver­sa­tions that I had dur­ing the de­bate over the Wieck­owski bill gives me con­fi­dence that the mem­bers un­der­stand what a big prob­lem there is, and they are in­ter­ested in a com­pre­hen­sive so­lu­tion to our waste man­age­ment prob­lems,” Allen said.

But Allen and Gon­za­lez’s Act — on which Wieck­owski is a coau­thor — stalled in Septem­ber. As the Act wound its way through the Leg­is­la­ture, its fo­cus shifted from curb­ing plas­tic pol­lu­tion to re­duc­ing waste from all ma­te­ri­als. It picked up amend­ments that ended op­po­si­tion from plas­tic and bev­er­age com­pa­nies rep­re­sented by pow­er­ful trade groups — the Amer­i­can Chem­istry Coun­cil and the Amer­i­can Bev­er­age As­so­ci­a­tion. It even won sup­port from the plas­tic com­pany Dow Inc.

The Act also, how­ever, picked up op­po­si­tion from the glass and wine in­dus­tries. The Wine In­sti­tute’s Sch­melzer said the in­dus­try was con­cerned by what he called “un­fet­tered au­thor­ity” granted to CalRe­cy­cle. His or­ga­ni­za­tion would also like to see clearer rules sur­round­ing in­dus­try plans to meet state re­cy­cling tar­gets.

Scott DeFife, pres­i­dent of the Glass Pack­ag­ing In­sti­tute, said his or­ga­ni­za­tion needs to see more be­fore switch­ing po­si­tions. “We sup­port the goals of the cir­cu­lar econ­omy leg­is­la­tion,” he said. Still, “The de­tails of those is­sues mat­ter, and need to be fleshed out a lit­tle bit be­fore we can re­ally con­sider chang­ing a stated po­si­tion.”

‘We are go­ing to hold you re­spon­si­ble for do­ing your part’

No amend­ments to the Act have been pub­licly posted since it stalled in Septem­ber, so its cur­rent breadth is un­clear. But Sch­melzer and Allen’s team have been work­ing to re­solve the Wine In­sti­tute’s con­cerns so it can drop its op­po­si­tion. “We’re not this hard, throw-our-bod­ies-across-the-tracks, weshould-never-try-to-re­cy­cle type of ob­jec­tions. It’s like, let’s make this bill work a lit­tle bet­ter,” Sch­melzer said.

In the process, Allen said he’s made an ef­fort to un­der­stand in­dus­try is­sues first hand. “I’ve toured sec­ondary , I’ve toured glass bot­tling fa­cil­i­ties. I’ve been to the mat­tress re­cy­clers, car­pet,” he said. “I’ve been to a water bot­tling fa­cil­ity for plas­tic bot­tles, I’ve got the chance to sit down with city waste man­age­ment peo­ple and haulers and re­cy­clers. This is all com­pli­cated stuff.”

Ul­ti­mately, he said, the bill sets goals — and man­u­fac­tur­ers will have to fig­ure out how to meet them. “At the heart of all this, of our ef­forts, is a mes­sage to man­u­fac­tur­ers,” Allen said. “We are go­ing to hold you re­spon­si­ble for do­ing your part, but we’re go­ing to let you do what you need to do.”

‘There needs to be a ma­jor over­haul’

Like Wieck­owski’s bill, the Act in­cludes bev­er­age bot­tles that Cal­i­for­ni­ans can cur­rently re­turn for re­bates— but only start­ing in 2026.

That’s not soon enough, said Jeff Don­levy, gen­eral man­ager for re­cy­cling com­pany Ming’s Re­sources — East Bay and a board mem­ber of Pro­tect CRV, a coali­tion of re­cy­cling cen­ters and pro­ces­sors.

“Re­cy­cling cen­ters need help this year, this ses­sion — and if we don’t get some leg­is­la­tion this ses­sion, we’re go­ing to need the gov­er­nor to step up with some bud­get so­lu­tions,” he said. “Be­cause more re­cy­cling cen­ters will close, es­pe­cially in the higher op­er­at­ing cost ar­eas like North­ern Cal­i­for­nia.”

Un­der Cal­i­for­nia’s “bot­tle bill,” Cal­i­for­ni­ans pay an ex­tra 5 or 10 cents for most bev­er­ages — ex­cept milk, wine and hard al­co­hol. Then, they can trade empty bev­er­age bot­tles and cans for a re­fund at re­cy­cling cen­ters, or, if there are none nearby, at cer­tain su­per­mar­kets. Not all the gro­cery stores ob­li­gated to par­tic­i­pate ac­tu­ally do, how­ever, opt­ing in­stead to pay a fee of $100 a day.

Re­cy­cling cen­ters have been shut­ter­ing for years, how­ever — leav­ing Cal­i­for­ni­ans who rely on the in­come in the lurch. The shut­downs cul­mi­nated with the clo­sure of ma­jor Cal­i­for­nia re­cy­cler rePlanet’s re­main­ing 284 fa­cil­i­ties last Au­gust, which the com­pany at­trib­uted to high op­er­at­ing costs, lower re­turns for re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als, and in­suf­fi­cient state fees — de­spite a $25 mil­lion pay­out in 2018 from CalR­ey­cle.

Wieck­owski’s Bev­er­age Con­tainer Re­cy­cling Act of 2020 would have scrapped the pro­gram, and started over. The bill would have tasked com­pa­nies and man­u­fac­tur­ers that sell bev­er­ages to deal­ers in Cal­i­for­nia with de­vel­op­ing a new sys­tem and help­ing to cover the costs. The pro­gram would also have in­cluded bev­er­ages cur­rently ex­cluded from the bot­tle bill: wine and liquor.

Pro­tect CRV would have sup­ported the bill had it been amended to in­clude more sup­port for ex­ist­ing re­cy­cling cen­ters, Don­levy said. “It’s dis­ap­point­ing be­cause it was the only true bot­tle bill leg­is­la­tion go­ing for­ward,” Don­levy said. “We sup­ported the over­all idea of com­pre­hen­sive re­form, be­cause there needs to be a ma­jor over­haul.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.