By Neil Seldman, Institute for Local Self-Reliance and NCRA Member, 8/30/19 – Excerpts and bolding by Dan Knapp of Urban Ore
In August federal bills on plastic pollution and Zero Waste were put forward in Congress by Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Representative Alan Lowenthall (D-Calif.) and Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn). Neither can come close to moving forward given the make-up of the Senate and the veto power of the president. Yet they can establish a blueprint for progressive steps in the future. However, some fine-tuning is needed to ensure that well-intended legislation does not actually make it harder to move forward toward recyclers’ goals.
… “The call for a national EPR system is a serious mistake. Recycling is not dying and a radical effort to turn the recycling sector over to the companies that generate waste is uncalled for. It turns out that the demand for U.S. recyclables is strong in the U.S. and overseas. There is a scramble by foreign investors, led by the Chinese, to build paper and plastics recycling plants throughout the U.S. and ship clean materials to home factories. U.S. companies are vying for these materials as well. An estimated 20 new recycled paper mills are under construction in the U.S. at this time in every part of the country. Cities are converting to dual stream and small single stream processing which generate clean materials to meet these markets….”
… “Organized citizen and small business activism has been the key to the start up and growth of recycling in the U.S. and remains so to this day, starting with drop off centers, moving quickly to community based collection systems, then to eventual adoption by cities and counties. The citizens’ recycling movement merged with the hugely successful anti garbage incineration movement in the 1980s and the inspirational and practical Zero Waste Movement in the 1990s. Citizens at the local level have run for office and won, organizing coalitions that city and county councils could not ignore without a threat to their next election….”
… “An EPR system would shut this engine of recycling off completely. Access to decision makers at the local level would be eliminated as cities would have abdicated their decision making power of waste and recycling to corporate nonprofit boards that will replace all decision making, collection, processing, and marketing. Public recycling jobs would be terminated and workers rehired by these Brand Name corporations with little union and employment protections, and lower pay and benefits. Mary Lou Van Deventer, environmental writer, recycling pioneer, and principal of Urban Ore, the iconic materials reuse and processing enterprise, refers to EPR for traditional materials as a “hostile takeover” threatening 50 years of recycling activism.
“PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, and Nestlé introduced EPR for traditional recycling materials in 2013. The goal, as interpreted by the vast majority of grass roots activists, is to stop any new bottle bills from being enacted and to roll back the existing 10 state bottle bills. Frequently heard comments among pro EPR…advocates add insult to injury: Cities do not know how to recycle and they are broke so they can’t do anything, corporations have the money and know how to recycle better. The Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) praised the legislation’s EPR component, “EPR is the only transformational solution to the current crisis.”
“These comments are counter-intuitive given the history of U.S. recycling wherein cities have learned from the early successes of grassroots recycling and adopted them for municipal roll out. Grassroots pressure at the local level continues to lead the country toward new rules for waste and recycling management.
“Efforts to impose EPR controlled by Big Soda in R.I., Conn., Minn., and Calif. failed in the last few years despite a stealth strategy, including hiring of former state legislatures to lobby their former colleagues, state environmental organization staff, and grassroots environmental organizations.” […]
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