PVC packaging ban

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, May 15, 2009 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

This year, Assemblymember Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica) introduced AB 1329 which would prohibit a retail establishment from selling, importing or distributing a rigid or flexible polyvinyl chloride (PVC) packaging container on or after January 1, 2013 and January 1, 2014, respectively.  The author states that polyvinyl packaging poses a human health risk, emits toxic pollution during production, contains toxic additives and is a major source of chlorine and dioxin at incineration facilities.  The author maintains that PVC is a problem in recycling plastic because it contaminates other forms of recyclable plastic making them unusable. She also claims that there is no recycling market for this type of material with almost all of it ending up in landfills.  

PVC has better forming, cutting and sealing capabilities than comparable alternatives thereby helping with tamper resistance, protecting infants and children from products not intended for human consumption (e.g., household cleaners) and products that may be toxic at high doses (e.g., pharmaceuticals).  PVC's unique characteristics make it an excellent choice for packaging chemically active products like solvents or lighter fluid since PVC maintains its integrity, thus preventing bottles from leaking or cracking. It also retards evaporation by preventing VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) from being emitted.

PVC is a widely used thermoplastic polymer.  It is widely used as vinyl siding, window casings, water pipes, aquarium walls.  There is little evidence of specific risks associated with PVC itself.  PVC helps protect and extend the shelf life of pharmaceuticals.  PVC blister packaging offers moisture protection to pills since the tablets remain sealed from moisture until they are actually used.  Additionally, PVC helps protect tablets and pills from germs since they are only handled at the time of use as compared to multiple times when packaged in bottles.  
While the bill's proponents allege PVC packaging is a danger because it contains "lead, cadmium" and other heavy metals, opponents argue that PVC packaging is not toxic and that PVC products in the United States are stabilized with compounds based on tin, barium, calcium or zinc-- not lead or cadmium.  According to the Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse Report "the greatest threat to the quality of packaging materials and compliance with state laws appears to be packages of imported products."

The Department of Toxics Substances Control (DTSC) already has authority to regulate "heavy metals" like lead and cadmium in packaging.  Stricter enforcement of this statute, with an emphasis on packaging materials that are imported would be the most prudent public health and environmental protection policy the state could take.

Many different types of plastic containers are being recycled via the current recycling infrastructure.  For example, under the state's Beverage Container Redemption and Recycling Program, 19% of all PVC bottles, 63% of PET bottles and 90% of HDPE bottles are being recycled.  PVC containers are a miniscule fraction of the state's waste stream.  As stated in the policy committee analysis, "According to the California Integrated Waste Management Board's waste characterization data, all rigid plastic 'clamshell containers' constitute 0.06% of all solid waste that is disposed, while 'other plastic containers' constitute 0.05%. PVC containers are a subset of this number." 

CMTA opposes this unnecessary legislation. It is now on the floor of the Assembly.
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