An American Version of EPR

Read the full story at Waste360.

“Make the manufacturers pay” has become a popular solution for recycling’s problems. It seems simple after all, that if producers pay for recycling instead of local governments, taxpayer money can be used on other services.  Moreover, by “internalizing” the recycling cost, manufacturers will find ways to make their packaging and products more easily recyclable.  Sounds great doesn’t it?

These product stewardship laws, also known as “EPR” for “extended producer responsibility”, are somewhat common in the United States.Thirty-three states have laws covering products that are hard to recycle or contain hazardous constituents. They include, for instance, electronics, paint, carpets, mattresses and mercury-containing thermostats. The programs have been somewhat successful in increasing recycling of those products but have done little to make them more easily recyclable or otherwise change their design. 

Product stewardship for packaging and paper products can be found throughout Europe, in five of Canada’s ten provinces, and in other parts of the world. They cannot be found in any American state. Perhaps, that is, until now. Legislators in nine states are likely to consider statewide producer responsibility legislation this year.  But as they try to establish these programs, they will struggle with the reality that, as the head of the Product Policy Institute said years ago, this type of EPR is “simple in concept, complex in execution”.

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