Yesterday, the US Conference of Mayors (USCM) called for state and federal producer responsibility laws that shift the costs of “problematic product” and packaging waste away from taxpayers and local government to producers and the end consumers of these products. The USCM resolution is based on a model developed by the Product Policy Institute that has been adopted by 95 local jurisdictions and government groups in California since 2006, as well as by jurisdictions in New York, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Texas.
USCM is the third national group of politicians to adopt such a resolution, following the lead of the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties last year. Since 2005, more than 50 Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws in 32 states have been enacted, and Maine unanimously passed the first EPR Framework law earlier this year.
The USCM resolution is directed more at household hazardous waste such as batteries, syringes and fluorescent lamps, BUT it does take aim at “associated packaging” and encourages “minimizing excess packaging” and “using recycled materials in the manufacture of new products.”
So, will converters be affected by this growing EPR trend, and in what ways?
My Thoughts: With states and towns hard pressed to pay for services in this economy, who’s going to argue against having CPGs somehow pay for the leftover hazardous (and packaging) waste? Not me. The question remains: Pay for it in what way?
While a common policy in Europe, EPR is still fairly new here in the States. And getting Congress and President Obama to care about EPR right now is laughable with plenty of other pressing issues (Gulf oil spill, et al). Also, national EPR laws may be next to imposssible. There are 3,000 counties in the US. Heck, my village and the next-door city can’t even agree on how to collect recyclables. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen someday. (Lord, save us from an American “Green Dot” on everything.)
So, be prepared to help your affected CPGs by offering a boatload of source-reduced, recycled-content, 100%-recyclable packaging materials and designs. Because if you think the cost of dealing with packaging waste will get fully passed onto Joe Consumer, think again. One way or another, that cost is bound to get pushed back up the supply chain to “you know who.”