As if we don’t have enough to worry about with global warming, whether the Cleveland Indians will make it into the World Series or the fall television schedule, along comes the annual list of “job-killing legislation” from the California Chamber of Commerce (www.calchamber.com/CC/GovernmentRelations/JobKillers.htm). With coming attractions like earthquakes, forest fires and undoings of movie starlets, why does CalChamber (as its friends call it) think any pending legislation could reduce its workforce?
Someone needs a wake-up call. Both sides of these legislative debates need to give some consideration to the end user. I’ll skip the bickering about housing development restrictions, increased construction costs and numerous health care issues and head straight to packaging (or anti-packaging in this case) legislative initiatives. Well, not straight. CalChamber rides a high horse, wrangling a whole herd of sacred cows so there’s little questioning its motives. And legislators, with, I’m sure, the usual deep concerns for the health of its herd of sacred cows, is equally bent on doing the right thing.
Legislation in general, and the kind of packaging legislation in particular I wrote about in my June 2007 column, is designed and in place for a reason. Too often, it’s the wrong reason. And wrongheaded reasoning leads chambers of commerce and others to take aim at the wrong targets. Therein lies the problem. For example, laws against littering (the alleged intention of many packaging laws) have two stated purposes: health and aesthetics. As I’ve said before, however, I don’t think it’s fair for legislative bodies to burden manufacturers of transport packaging material, nor the users of those products, because of the dull-wittedness and anti-social behavior of a minority of their constituents.
Legislators and chambers of commerce should be focusing collective efforts on the positive, not the negative. Tax payer dollars should be going into educational efforts to teach people the three Rs: reuse, reduce and recycle. Until that’s done, the kinds of people who litter will just substitute one material for another.
I’m not a social scientist, so my take on littering is probably not objective. I see it as disrespect for the environment and creatures therein. Littering is about small things adding up to a big problem—a single corrugated carton tossed by the side of the road, the busted pallet that falls from a trailer, loose fill dunnage that gets swept out the dock door. Sins of omission and commission.
There are plenty of legal definitions of litter: “Litter is trash improperly placed so as to be a nuisance or health concern.” This, from the U.S. Legal Definitions Web site, says nothing about kinds of material.
Litter is not going to stop because there’s a law against it. Signs promising huge fines for littering are nothing more than litter on a stick themselves.
You can’t legislate morality. Banning a type of transport packaging material has minimal impact on how products made from it will be disposed of in the long term. The ban, while satisfying the legislative agenda, could have an impact on whether it’s created in the first place, thus the impact on employment--the chamber’s concern. The benefit derived from transport packaging--how to do more with what they’ve already paid for--is what people need to hear, not more bickering about why something needs to be eliminated.
Packaging associations and responsible companies are sending that message. With all the other yapping, however, it’s tough for the confused consumer to decide which end of the dog to believe.