BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                               AB 1972
                                                                       

                      SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY
                        Senator S. Joseph Simitian, Chairman
                              2007-2008 Regular Session
                                           
           BILL NO:    AB 1972
           AUTHOR:     DeSaulnier
           AMENDED:    June 19, 2008
           FISCAL:     Yes               HEARING DATE:     June 23, 2008
           URGENCY:    No                CONSULTANT:       Randy Pestor
            
           SUBJECT  :    BAGS, FOOD, AND BEVERAGE CONTAINERS

            SUMMARY  :    
           
            Existing law  , under the California Integrated Waste Management  
           Act of 1989:

           1) Prohibits a plastic bag from being sold that is labeled  
              "compostable," "biodegradable," "degradable," or any form  
              of those terms, unless the plastic bag meets a current  
              American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard  
              specification (Public Resources Code 42357).  "ASTM  
              standard specification" means a "definition found in the  
              Style and Form Guide for ASTM standards . . ."  (42356).

           2) Prohibits a plastic food or beverage container from being  
              sold that is labeled "compostable," "biodegradable,"  
              "degradable," or any form of those terms, unless the  
              plastic container meets a current ASTM standard  
              specification (42359.6).  "ASTM standard specification"  
              means  "ASTM Standard Specification for Compostable  
              Plastics (D6400-04) . . ."  (42359.5).

            This bill  :

           1) Replaces the above plastic bag ASTM definition with  
              references to a specification for "Compostable Plastics  
              D6400" and "Non-Floating Biodegradable Plastics in the  
              Marine Environment D7801."  References to "biodegradable"  
              and "degradable" are stricken, a person is prohibited from  
              selling a plastic bag labeled with those terms and the term  
              "decomposable", or any way imply that the bag will break  
              down, fragment, biodegrade, or decompose in a landfill or  









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              the environment.

           2) Replaces the above ASTM definition with references to  
              "Compostable Plastics D6400," "Non-Floating Biodegradable  
              Plastics in the Marine Environment D7801," or "Standard  
              Specification for Biodegradable Plastics Used as Coatings  
              on Paper and Other Compostable Substrates D6868."   
              References to "biodegradable" and "degradable" are  
              stricken, a person is prohibited from selling a plastic bag  
              labeled with those terms and the term "decomposable", or  
              any way imply that the bag will break down, fragment,  
              biodegrade, or decompose in a landfill or the environment.

           3) References the most recent published dates for the standard  
              specifications.  If the standard specification is  
              subsequently revised, the California Integrated Waste  
              Management Board (CIWMB) must review the new standard and  
              do either of the following:  a) if the CIWMB determines the  
              new standard is more stringent and protective of public  
              health, safety, and the environment, and is reflective of  
              and consistent with state policies and programs, then the  
              CIWMB may adopt the new standard; or b) if the CIWMB  
              determines that the new standard is not as stringent and  
              does not protect public health, safety, and the  
              environment, and is not reflective of and consistent with  
              state policies and programs, then the CIWMB cannot adopt  
              the new standard.  If the ASTM or another entity develops a  
              new standard specification for any of the prohibited terms,  
              the CIWMB may review the standards based on the above  
              requirements and make a recommendation to the Legislature.

           4) Contains related legislative intent, clarifies certain  
              definitions, and makes related technical amendments.

            COMMENTS  :

            1) Purpose of Bill  .  According to the author, "Manufacturers  
              of plastic products are making false and misleading  
              advertising claims that their products are 100%  
              degradable/bidegradable/compostable."

           The author and sponsor are concerned about "oxo-degradable"  










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              materials that are composed of plastic and an additive that  
              do not meet ASTM standards.  According to the author, "When  
              the material degrades, the additive degrades and the  
              plastic remains.  After degradation, the plastic turns into  
              small fragments and is left in the compost material, or the  
              environment.  Manufacturers of products using  
              oxo-degradables are making claims on their products that  
              they are 100% biodegradable or compostable."

           The author notes that this can be resolved by referencing the  
              most recently published ASTM D6400, D6868, and D7801  
              standards.  Concerns were raised at the Environmental  
              Quality Committee's June 2, 2008, hearing over the lack of  
              standards for "biodegradable" and "degradable."  In  
              response to these concerns, AB 1972 strikes references to  
              those terms and prohibits a person from selling a plastic  
              bag, or a plastic food or beverage container, labeled with  
              those terms, as well as the term "decomposable."   
              Amendments also provide a process for the CIWMB to review  
              and adopt a new ASTM standard, and to make a recommendation  
              to the Legislature for any developed standards for the  
              prohibited terms.

            2) Related requirements and legislation  .  SB 951 (Hart)  
              Chapter 1076, Statutes of 1993, enacted the Plastic Trash  
              Bag Law to require recycled plastic postconsumer material  
              in certain types of plastic trash bags.  SB 698 (Rainey)  
              Chapter 44, Statutes of 1998, revised various procedures  
              relating to these provisions to enable postconsumer  
              materials to be in other plastic products of the  
              manufacturer.  In response to concerns about manufacturers  
              that violate the law, SB 698 added a debarment provision  
              that made these violators ineligible for state contract  
              awards until they comply with the requirements and  
              prohibits the state from soliciting offers from, or  
              awarding contracts to, those firms.  SB 698 also required  
              the California Integrated Waste Management Board to publish  
              a list of violators.

           SB 1749 (Karnette) Chapter 619, Statutes of 2004, prohibited  
              persons from selling a plastic bag labeled as  
              "compostable," "biodegradable," "degradable," or any form  










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              of those terms, unless the plastic bag meets certain  
              requirements.  AB 1023 (DeSaulnier) Chapter 143, Statutes  
              of 2007, exempts these bags from the Plastic Trash Bag Law.

           AB 2147 (Harman) Chapter 349, Statutes of 2006, prohibited  
              persons from selling plastic food and beverage containers  
              labeled as "compostable," "biodegradable," "degradable," or  
              any form of those terms, unless the containers meet certain  
              requirements.

           AB 2071 (Karnette) sets penalties for violations of the SB  
              1749 plastic bag requirements.

            SOURCE  :        Biodegradable Products Institute  

           SUPPORT  :       Amelia Spigler (Market Manager, Marin Farmers  
                          Markets)
                          American Federation of State, County and  
                          Municipal 
                              Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO
                          California Film Extruders & Converters  
                          Association
           Californians Against Waste
           Cereplast Inc.
                          Heritage Bag Company
                          Huhtamaki Foodservice
           City and County of San Francisco
            
           OPPOSITION :    Oxo-Biodegradable Plastic Alliance