Plastics Environmental Council responds to California’s ban on the word biodegradable

The Plastics Environmental Council (PEC) is rather surprised at the recent action of California's Attorney General Kamala Harris in the suit filed against bottled water companies Aquamantra Inc. and Balance Water, and their bottle supplier ENSO Plastics, charging that their claims of biodegradability are false.  Filing this suit, said Sen. Robert W. McKnight, the PEC's chairman and a former Florida state Legislator, "the Attorney General may not be aware of the timing that was agreed upon by her state Legislature together with Californians Against Waste (CAW) to allow completion of our currently ongoing R&D program to develop a biodegradability standard specification acceptable to the State Senate's Environmental Quality Committee before enacting SB567."

The PEC's R&D effort as presented to the California Legislature last Spring and as outlined in recent press releases is a long-term research study to produce the first-ever standard specification for the landfill biodegradation of petroleum- and natural gas-derived plastics that  have been treated with additives that enhance biodegradation, said the PEC in its release.

Dr. Charles J. Lancelot, the PEC's Executive Director and a veteran of 40 years in the plastics industry, noted that to date, "The PEC and its member companies in fact have produced a large body of laboratory-scale testing data with these additive systems, and said, "These tests are executed under conditions that have been carefully worked out to come as closely as possible in the laboratory to conditions found in actual U.S. landfills."

Dr. Lancelot added that, "Landfill biodegradation processes, even for readily biodegradable food wastes in the wetter landfills, take several years."

Sen. McKnight accused the California Attorney General of jumping the gun with her suit, rather than waiting for the PEC's R&D efforts with academic partners Georgia Tech and North Carolina State University to produce and develop the standard specification for landfill biodegradation. "The conversations among the PEC and the legislature culminated in a landmark meeting in which an agreement was reached with both Sen. DeSaulnier and with CAW to allow the time needed for the PEC to complete the development of the biodegradation standard specification that the Legislature wanted," said Sen. McKnight, adding that the result of the meeting was to extend the implementation for SB567 from Jan. 1, 2012 to Jan. 1, 2013.

"Given this mandate to get the standard specification job done by that time, the PEC's members made the major commitment required to push the project through," said Sen. McKnight. "We would like to think that the three companies currently cited could cooperate with Attorney General Harris's office and apply any needed qualifications to their claims based on the weight of the test evidence already in hand with the understanding that the agreed-to standard specification program is being run to completion. After all, assuming that the R&D indeed produces the needed standard specification and that it is incorporated into a further amended SB567 by Jan 1, 2013, the 2008 law will have been repealed thereby and the cited companies will be in compliance with the new law."

The PEC is a consortium of businesses, independent scientists and academics, engineers, landfill and compost operators, and environmental groups, whose goal is to assist its members in promoting the efficacy of state-of-the-market technology to facilitate the biodegradation of conventional petroleum-derived plastics in landfills and related disposal environments.

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