The recent demise in California of legislative bill SB-1454 took some by surprise. This cleverly written piece of legislation was designed supposedly to clarify misleading labeling claims and would prevent the sale of plastics in California whose packaging is labeled not only biodegradable but also compostable.
After an extensive push to get this legislation through the California Legislature, the backers of SB-1454 succeeded and it landed on Governor Schwarzenegger’s desk. Surely a slam dunk, yes?
The answer is no. The governor vetoed the bill, saying it was too “expansive” and that “unforeseen consequences could result from such a vast expansion” of existing law.
In truth, the vetoing of this bill was a win for both consumers and manufacturers. The backers of the bill – Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland, two megacorporations deeply involved in the growth and exportation of corn and grain feed – are part of the PLA industry. With their support, this seemingly positive bill was in fact a one-sided piece of legislation. While appearing to clarify any misleading or deceptive labeling practices, it in fact would have banned the use of the word “biodegradable” altogether, stating that this was in itself a deceptive claim for plastic products because supposedly plastic does not biodegrade.
In fact, there is scientific validation that it is truly biodegradable.
The drafters of this bill cleverly narrowed its focus, completely excluding biodegradation. Instead, SB-1454 would have supported “industrial compostable” ONLY plastic.
The problem with this is this type of plastic, unless actually processed through an industrial composting system, will last for upwards of a thousand years in our landfills.
After meetings with the staff of California’s governor to explain the true facts about biodegradation and what SB-1454 would in fact exclude, the governor wisely chose to veto the misleading piece of legislation that would itself have potentially created more problems than it would have solved.
Kudos to Governor Schwarzenegger for recognizing the importance of having regulations that provide real and viable recycling alternatives and not don’t merely benefit one lobby group.