Plastics industry targets Democrats to head off restrictions

Cheryl Auger was stunned this month when one of her neighbors and friends in Pasadena received a flyer in the mail with a picture of her congressman, which read: “Taxes are higher for with plastic products will enrich the company’s interests without guaranteeing the reduction of plastic waste.”

Although she didn’t know it at the time, Auger’s friend is ending a campaign in the plastics industry to pressure state lawmakers to weaken proposed restrictions on containers. single-use, which lawmakers are considering in the bill template and could become a November measure.

Auger, a plastic waste activist, said: “What was surprising to me was the lack of ability to tackle crime.

The parcels were sent by a group calling itself the Alliance for Environmental Solutions, which asserted without acknowledging that bans on single-use plastics “would have devastating effects on working families” by increased costs for consumers. The letter does not mention that plastic manufacturers and other industries are funding the union.

The fliers were all aimed at Democrats, mostly in Southern California, possibly an attempt to pressure them to derail the November ballot measure by simply enacting legislation that industry acceptable.

“I interpret it as a message, as a warning to members of the Legislature,” said Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino), to whom voters received one of the letters. . “If that was the purpose, it backfired because it made us even more committed to trying to pass meaningful legislation to stop plastic pollution.”

In the current legislative session, lawmakers are working on a bill designed to reduce plastic waste. If they are unable to draft legislation by June 30, the matter will be passed directly to voters as a ballot measure.

The initiative, California’s Plastic Pollution Reduction and Recycling Act, would require all disposable plastic packaging and food utensils used in California to be recyclable, reusable, recyclable, or recyclable. compostable by 2030. Single-use plastic production will have to be reduced by 25% by 2030. Program costs will be borne by single-use plastic manufacturers and distributors, and the language clearly stated. costs cannot be passed on to the consumer.

U.S. industries have for decades formed “base groups” to advance agendas such as lower taxes and fewer restrictions on tobacco and pollution. The groups behind the Environmental Solutions Coalition include the California Business Roundtable and the American Chemistry Council, which includes plastic manufacturers and oil companies. Coalition members have stated that they want to see the matter resolved in the Legislature.

Coalition postmen targeted elements of at least five lawmakers – Assemblymembers Gabriel, Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), Jacqui Irwin (D- Thousand Oaks) and Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda). According to Michael Bustamante, a spokesman for the union, no one was consulted before their pictures were included in the mailers.

Holden could not be reached for comment, and Garcia’s office said it was not aware of the flyers.

Irwin sent out a statement saying she prefers a legislative solution to the plastic waste problem, and has yet to “take a stance on single-use plastic initiatives”.

Bauer-Kahan said she had never heard of the Environmental Solutions Coalition, “nor have I had any conversations with them about any initiatives.” She says she’s in favor of reducing single-use plastics and that she has consistently advocated for legislation to “limit plastic pollution.”

Like his colleagues, Gabriel said he wants the Legislature to address the issue, but describes the campaign of mailings and threats as “disturbing” and “confusing.”

“As a purely political matter, I think it is a very poorly finished work,” he said of the journalist’s message. “I don’t know of anyone who can figure out exactly what it’s trying to convey.”

In California and several other states, restrictions on plastics are being strengthened by growing research into their environmental and health impacts.

Plastic never completely decomposes. They just break down into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics. These granules often contain harmful chemical additives such as flame retardants or plasticizers. Reports show that people consume as much microplastics as credit cards each week.

Over the last year, research has shown the presence of these particles in human blood, healthy lung tissue and meconium – the first bowel movements of babies. They are also found in marine life, ocean water, air, and soil.

Some researchers predict that by 2050, there could be more plastic by weight in the world’s oceans than there is in fish.

Nick Lapis, campaigning director for Californians against waste, said he found this revealed that the plastics industry has decided to hide behind layers of trade associations and front groups, rather than give it out. advertise directly to voters.

“This type of scam is exactly the issue the attorney general raised a few weeks ago,” said Lapis, whose nonprofit group advocates for waste and recycling issues since 1977.

Last month, California’s Attorney General, Rob Bonta, announced a first-of-its-kind investigation into the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries for their role in causing and exacerbating the pollution crisis. global plastic waste. Bonta accused them of “creating a myth that recycling can solve the plastic crisis.”

Bustamante, a spokesman for the Environmental Solutions Coalition, also could not briefly summarize the flyers’ message, but said they were targeted at lawmakers in the Los Angeles area, whom he considers is “part of an alliance of common sense”.

He said the parcels were being sent to constituents of legislators, who “have been noted for being very attentive to the kinds of events and issues that can increase costs for their members.” .”

The flyer doesn’t explicitly mention the pending legislation or the initiative, but states that “adding billions of dollars at a higher cost to working families is a misnomer.”

Auger, a cybersecurity expert who co-founded a recharge store in Pasadena to help consumers reduce plastic waste, said she wasn’t entirely surprised by the previous group’s intimidation tactics. The industry, she said, “has stymied anything substantial for plastics since the 1990s.”

https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2022-05-23/plastics-industry-targets-california-democrats-to-head-off-restrictions Plastics industry targets Democrats to head off restrictions

Edmund DeMarche

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