BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  SB 567
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          Date of Hearing:  June 27, 2011

                       ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES
                                Wesley Chesbro, Chair
                  SB 567 (DeSaulnier) - As Amended:  April 11, 2011

           SENATE VOTE  :  21-13
           
          SUBJECT  :  Recycling:  plastic products

           SUMMARY  :  Requires plastic products sold in the state and 
          labeled as "compostable" or "marine degradable" to meet 
          specified standards. Prohibits the sale of plastic products 
          labeled as "biodegradable," "degradable," or "decomposable."

           EXISTING LAW  : 

          1)Prohibits the sale of plastic bags labeled "compostable" or 
            "marine biodegradable" unless the plastic bag meets the 
            American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard 
            specification for those definitions. Prohibits sale of plastic 
            bag that is labeled with the term "biodegradable," 
            "degradable," or decomposable," or any form of those terms, or 
            in any way imply that the bag will break down, fragment, 
            biodegrade, or decompose in a landfill or other environment. 
            Related provisions, including definitions and penalties, are 
            specified. (Public Resources Code  42355 et seq.)

          2)Prohibits the sale of plastic food and beverage containers 
            labeled "compostable" or "marine degradable" unless the 
            container meets the applicable ASTM standard specification. 
            Prohibits the sale of plastic food and beverage containers 
            that are labeled "biodegradable," "degradable," or 
            "decomposable," or any form of those terms, or in any way 
            imply that the food or beverage container will break down, 
            fragment, biodegrade, or decompose in a landfill or other 
            environment. Related provisions, including definitions and 
            penalties, are specified. (Public Resources Code  42359 et 
            seq.)

           THIS BILL  : 

          1)Repeals the above provisions.

          2)Prohibits a plastic product from being sold that is labeled 








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            "compostable" or "marine biodegradable" unless the plastic 
            product meets certain ASTM standards. Prohibits a plastic 
            product from being sold that is labeled with the term 
            "biodegradable," "degradable," or "decomposable," or any form 
            of those terms, or in any way imply that the plastic product 
            will break down, fragment, biodegrade, or decompose in a 
            landfill or other environment. Related provisions including 
            definitions and penalties are specified. Provisions relating 
            to the adoption of a different standard from the ASTM standard 
            are specified and are more general than those in current law. 

          3)Contains related legislative intent. 

           FISCAL EFFECT :  According to the Senate Appropriations 
          Committee, staff estimates that the Department may incur minor 
          costs to review updated standards. There may also be minor costs 
          to enforce provisions of the bill. Those costs are likely to be 
          recoverable by the Department. 
           
          COMMENTS  : 

           1)Background.  According to the author, under current law, 
            manufacture of plastic bags and food and beverage containers 
            cannot claim that their products are "biodegradable" and can 
            only claim their products are "compostable" if they meet the 
            ASTM scientific technical standard for "compostability," 
            D6400. Currently there are no restrictions on end-of-life 
            claims for other plastic products besides bags and food and 
            beverage containers. Many plastic product currently sold in 
            the state claim to be "biodegradable," though there is no 
            technical standard for this term. Numerous studies have shown 
            that even "compostable" plastic does not quickly bread down in 
            the environment as one would expect5 a "biodegradable" product 
            to. Some plastic products claim to be "compostable" even 
            though they do not meet the technical standard for 
            compostability, making the material unacceptable in composting 
            facilities. 

          The author notes that claiming that plastic is "biodegradable" 
            is inherently misleading because the environmental conditions 
            and timeframe required for the supposed biodegradation are not 
            communicated to consumers. Most consumers will assume that 
            "biodegradable" means a product will quickly break down if 
            littered, which is not true even for "compostable" plastics 
            designed to break down in composting facilities. While 








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            scientific technical standards exist to verify that a product 
            is "compostable," there are no such standards to verify if a 
            product is "biodegradable" because the conditions and 
            timeframe inherent in the claim of "biodegradability" are too 
            vague.  

          2)Purpose of the Bill  . This bill will expand the scope of the 
            current labeling restrictions for plastic bags and food 
            packaging in Public Resources Code  42357-42359 to all 
            plastic products.
           
          3)Benefit of the Bill  . False labeling of products damages 
            composting facilities' ability to ensure that their feedstock 
            material will break down properly and be available for resale 
            to end users. This bill would help to ensure that composting 
            facilities receive useable material. Furthermore, many 
            California consumers contentiously purchase products that have 
            a minimal impact on the environment. This bill protects such 
            consumers by deterring fraud in the marketplace.
           
          4)Federal Law  . Unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or 
            affecting commerce are declared unlawful under federal law. 15 
            U.S.C.  45 (a)(1). The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) 
            published guides that help to explain the effect the law has 
            on environmental labeling, advertising, and marketing. These 
            effects include the labeling of products or packages as 
            "degradable," "biodegradable," or "compostable." 
           
          5)Related Legislation  . 
           
           SB 1749 (Karnette) Chapter 619, Statutes of 2004, prohibited the 
            sale of a plastic bag labeled as "biodegradable," 
            "compostable," "degradable," or any other form of those terms, 
            or in any way imply that the container will break down in a 
            landfill unless the bag meets the current ASTM standard 
            specification for the term used on the label. 

          AB 2147 (Harman) Chapter 349, Statutes of 2006, prohibited the 
            sale of a plastic food or beverage container labeled as 
            "biodegradable," "compostable," "degradable," or any other 
            form of those terms, or in any way imply that the container 
            will break down in a landfill unless the bag meets the current 
            ASTM standard specification for the term used on the label.

          AB 1972(DeSaulnier) Chapter 436, Statutes of 2008, prohibited 








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            the sale of a plastic bag labeled as "compostable" or "marine 
            degradable" unless the bag meets the ASTM standard 
            specification or a standard adopted by the California 
            Integrated Waste Management Board. Prohibited the sale of a 
            plastic bag labeled "biodegradable," "degradable," or 
            "decomposable," or as otherwise specified. The bill prohibited 
            the sale of a plastic food or beverage container labeled as 
            "compostable" or "marine degradable" unless the container 
            meets the ASTM standard specification or a standard adopted by 
            the California Integrated Waste Management Board. Prohibited 
            the sale of a plastic food or beverage container labeled 
            "biodegradable," "degradable," or "decomposable," or as 
            otherwise specified.

          AB 2071(Karnette) Chapter 570, Statutes of 2008, authorizes a 
            city, county, or the state to impose civil liability in the 
            amount of five hundred dollars ($500) for the first violation, 
            one thousand dollars ($1,000) for the second violation, and 
            two thousand dollars ($2,000) for the third and any subsequent 
            violation of the of the above provisions. 

          SB 228 (DeSaulnier) Chapter 406, Statutes of 2010, requires a 
            manufacturer of a compostable plastic bag meeting the 
            specified standards to ensure that the compostable plastic bag 
            is "readily and easily identifiable" from other plastic bags 
            in a manner consistent the FTC Guides for the Use of 
            Environmental Marketing Claims.  
             
            SB 1454 (DeSaulnier of 2010) is nearly identical to SB 567. 
            The only difference between the two bills is that SB 567 
            clarifies a cross-reference under  42358(c). SB 1454 was 
            passed by both houses and vetoed by the governor. In his veto 
            message, Governor Schwarzenegger wrote "I have signed into law 
            the author's SB 228, which requires manufacturers of 
            compostable plastic bags meeting specific American Society for 
            Testing Materials (ASTM)? I think that bill represents a 
            reasonable next step in providing information to the consumer 
            and recyclers about the differences in biodegradable products. 
            I am concerned about the much more expansive universe or 
            plastic products that this bill would regulate and the 
            unforeseen consequences that could result from such a vast 
            expansion."   

          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :









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           Support
           
          American Chemistry Council
          California Resource Recovery Association
          Californians Against Waste
          City of Oakland
          City and County of San Francisco
          Marin County Hazardous and Solid Waste Management Joint Powers 
          Authority
          Solid Waste Association of North America

           Opposition
           
          None on file


           Analysis Prepared by  :  Lynn A. Kirshbaum / NAT. RES. / (916) 
          319-2092