Horrible Hybrids Letter To The Editor

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the Northern California Recycling Association.

Re: ‘Horrible Hybrids’, The Guardian, 4/20/20, NPR , 4/26/20, Waste360, 4/30/20

By Neil Seldman, Waste to Wealth Initiative, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, 5/5/2020

This article –

Horrible Hybrids’: The Plastic Products That Give Recyclers Nightmares, introduces the problems posed by hybrid packaging for recyclers and has excellent specifics on how to avoid hybrid and other unnecessary packaging. But the solution proposed — putting manufacturers in charge of recycling — excludes tried and true alternatives to putting companies in charge, which for decades have made unmet promises for better packaging. Companies respond to hard mandates. Recall the aerosol ban of years ago. Companies complained bitterly about the regulations but the day after the aerosol ban their products were on the shelves just as before.

Citizens have been providing these hard mandates for 50 years: mandatory recycling and composting, container deposits, waste surcharges and more. Organized citizens and small businesses have been the engine of recycling in the US. Waste and beverage companies fight to repeal yard debris bans, bottle bills and most recently use state preemption to quash local initiatives such as bans on single use plastics. Recycling has gotten us to 35% despite wrongheaded solutions posed by industry to reduce waste: large scale incineration, single stream recycling and the Chinese debacle. Some cities have reached 50%, 60% and even 70% recycling.

The way to break through the stagnation is to focus on better solutions than creating corporate dominated agencies to take over a thriving industry:

    • Product Stewardship in which companies pay into funds to support municipal programs
    • Minimum recycled content for products sold
    • Taxes on packaging, especially hybrids
    • Carbon tax to increase the value of materials with embedded energy, labor and extraction costs

For 100+ examples of successful local actions that can be replicated in any county, town or city visit the US EPA’s Managing and Transforming Waste Streams – A Tool for Communities

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