Gino DiCaro

Water board considers litter and marine debris

By Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications

Capitol Update, Sept. 28, 2007

On Monday, September 24th, the State Water Resources Control Board listed an agenda item for their October 2nd meeting in Los Angeles to endorse a litter and marine debris resolution that looks similar to one hastily adopted, without discussion, by the Ocean Protection Council (OPC) last March.  

OPC's resolution spawned numerous legislative proposals aimed directly at the plastics industry, particularly packaging.  Although the Administration claimed that these were not their bills, the authors touted them as such.  If the Water Board endorses a similar resolution, there is no question that we will see the same bills back again next year.

The resolution contains many policy recommendations that are sound and that deserve the full attention and participation of the public, government bodies at the state and local level, and from the business community.  Adding new trash receptacles and recycling opportunities, expanding and promoting beach and watershed cleanup programs and promoting environmental education and outreach are examples of policies that can have a sustainable impact on reducing litter and marine debris.  We encourage the Water Board to initiate efforts to engage the broader business community, non-profit groups, environmental organizations, and public agencies to explore ways in which all stakeholders can play an active role to ensure these recommendations are implemented and that they succeed.
However, the language in the resolution that focuses exclusively on plastic materials found in marine debris falls short of the broader comprehensive approach that is necessary to successfully address this issue.  To be truly effective, any effort by the Water Board to address marine debris should target all waste and not be limited to one material.  

There are no "silver bullet" solutions to marine debris - the only effective way to reduce the amount of onshore-generated material that enters the ocean is to increase recycling and diversion where feasible and reduce the improper disposal of all types of trash.  In our view, policies that help to educate businesses, governments and consumers on packaging innovations, emerging recycling opportunities and technologies, and educational programs should be the initial focus of future efforts.  We urged the Water Board to avoid any sweeping suggestions or recommendations that favor one material type over another.  Reducing all forms of marine debris, regardless of the material, should be the single most important objective.  

Tim Shestek of the American Chemistry Council and Mike Rogge from CMTA met with Tam Doduc, SWRCB Chairman, on Tuesday to discuss problems with the resolution.  The item has now been pulled from the agenda.  This does not mean that it will not surface again.  It almost certainly will.  Companies need to be prepared to express their concerns and the impacts it would have on their businesses.

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