NWPSC October 2018 Newsletter

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October 2018

China Sword, Recycling, and Producer Responsibility

EPR laws hold manufacturers responsible for the afterlife of their products
At an August 2018 Portland meeting of recycling businesses and government staff, Waste Management's Pacific-Northwest-British Columbia area recycling director, Matt Stern, said:

"Every piece of recycling equipment in this country — and I'm only exaggerating slightly — is incapable of making the industry standard that has been in place for decades. The future has to take into account the need to make quality material. If you make quality material and you're consistent at it, you have a better chance of luring plastic processors and manufacturers."

Metro's Matt Korot said "more could be done with extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws, which hold manufacturers responsible for the afterlife of their products; having federal laws would be more effective than the current state-by-state approach, where some states lead and others lag behind."
Lack of domestic solutions wasn't always an issue. Jeff Murray of EFI Recycling said that "during the 1990s, China began doing more with one machine than what two local paper mills could do. Our mills started falling behind, we moved to co-mingling, our quality started going down, but China was willing to pay more for less quality and that began the downslide of some of our domestic options."
"China allowed us to be a bottom feeder and build a commodity system that was contaminated," said Stern.

Why deposits make sense for retailers
September 11, Resource Recycling: Following up an earlier article on why deposit return systems for beverage containers make sense (also known as "bottle bill" laws in the U.S.), Clarissa Morawski and Samantha Millette detail why such systems can also be a win for another key stakeholder: retailers. In addition to increased sales and foot traffic, increased income: "although a typical deposit system brings an overall cost to retailers of 28.5-29 million euros per year, the handling fees paid to participating retailers could be as high as 37.2 million euros. This translates into a net income for the retail sector of up to 8.7 million euros annually."

Moving to a zero-waste circular economy will put cash back into people's pockets
September 18, Vancouver Sun: "Next time you see a loaded garbage truck headed for the landfill, imagine that it's packed full of your hard-earned cash. In effect, it is. Every year, local governments in Canada spend approximately $3.2 billion managing 34 million tonnes of waste. You pay for it in municipal taxes that could be used for better purposes.
The solution is not better waste management, it’s waste prevention. We need to design waste out of our economy, but that’s not going to happen if we remain focused on our current linear economic system of “take, make, dispose.” We must start seeing “waste” as a resource with value that can be reused as part of what is known as a circular economy. It’s not a new concept. European countries such as Finland are far advanced in adopting circularity, and in July, China and the European Union, current world leaders in circular economy policy, signed a memorandum of understanding on circular economy cooperation."

Packaging EPR's role in the circular economy
Learn about the world's best producer responsibility programs to manage packaging and printed paper: the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) will host an October 31 webinar "Global Best Practices: Packaging EPR's Role in Advancing the Circular Economy." Speakers from high-performing European and Canadian EPR organizations will explain what EPR is, how successful systems work, and the benefits EPR can deliver – including better recycling infrastructure and increased recycling, eco design, and public awareness. The speakers will also examine EPR’s role in advancing the circular economy and preventing plastics pollution. This PSI facilitated webinar will begin a global conversation on challenges and opportunities to managing packaging and printed paper.

EPR, packaging, and plastics
For more news, read through recent headlines related to producer responsibility, packaging, and plastics:

Legislation & News

California enacts first drugs and needles stewardship law in the nation
The California legislature passed Senate Bill 212 ("pharmaceutical and sharps waste stewardship") in August and the governor signed it into law September 30, 2018. The new law requires "manufacturers of pharmaceutical drugs and medical needles to establish, implement and fund take-back programs for safe and secure collection and disposal of their products... the first statewide measure in the nation to include both prescription medications and medical needles." The bill co-authors said, "This is a tremendous accomplishment that will help fight prescription drug abuse, keep pharmaceuticals out of our water supply, and place the burden of disposal on the industry, not consumers or taxpayers." "It took years of hard work to get to this point, but a statewide solution is essential to address the public health and environmental issues brought on by having a limited patchwork of take-back programs." While Washington and New York both passed safe drug take back (pharmaceutical stewardship) legislation earlier in 2018, California is the first state to pass a producer responsibility law for both drugs and needles. The California Product Stewardship Council and National Stewardship Action Council will host a webinar on October 23 ("a case study in EPR policymaking") to go over the legislation's multi-year history, opposition, and campaign to passage.

LightRecycle Washington update logo of LightRecycle Washington
From January through June 2018, Washingtonians recycled 651,689 mercury-containing lights, weighing over 306,000 pounds, via LightRecycle Washington. LightRecycle, a manufacturer operated product stewardship program run by nonprofit PCA Product Stewardship Inc. and overseen by the Washington Department of Ecology, allows individuals and businesses to recycle up to 10 mercury-containing lights per day at sites throughout Washington – find a location near you.

Vermont Product Stewardship Council celebrates 10 year anniversary
Founded in September 2008 by Vermont local governments, the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI), and Upstream to jointly solve problems related to the management of problematic consumer products and packaging, the Vermont Product Stewardship Council (VTPSC) is celebrating 10 years of successes: "the passage of five of the state’s eight extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws, for primary batteries, electronics, paint, mercury lamps, and thermostats... Vermont leads the nation in per capita collection rates for many of these products, recycling or safely disposing of millions of pounds of material and creating recycling jobs throughout the state and the northeast. This year, the group is turning its attention to household hazardous waste and packaging."

The explosive problem with recycling iPads, iPhones and other gadgets: they literally catch fire.
September 11, The Washington Post: "But ultimately, this is an environmental problem of the tech industry's own design. And it's time they own it."
A Wisconsin electronics recycler said, "I just don't understand why Apple doesn't include design features that its users and the reuse-and-recycling community can benefit from to extend the life of their products safely."
"The risk is that devices like old iPads could become unrecyclable, at least in economic terms, for scrap companies that aren’t getting paid some other way. Today, firms can still make money by reselling iPads. But who’s going to process all the old iPads currently marooned in drawers, losing their market value?"
"Designing for repair makes a huge difference in the life cycle impact of the product... Some tech companies, including Apple, have actively opposed so-called "right to repair" legislation that would require companies to share information on how to take apart products."

Upcoming Events

  • Coast Waste Management Association (CWMA) annual conference: October 17-19, Victoria, British Columbia
  • Producer Responsibility legislation for Meds and Sharps: Case Study in EPR Policymaking from California (webinar): October 23, 9-10:30am Pacific
  • Packaging EPR's Role in Advancing the Circular Economy (webinar): October 31, 8-9:30am Pacific

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Northwest Product Stewardship Council (NWPSC)The Northwest Product Stewardship Council (NWPSC) is a coalition of government agencies in Washington and Oregon working on solid waste, recycling, resource conservation, environmental protection, public health and other issues. Together with non-government agencies, businesses and individuals, we form a network that supports product stewardship and extended producer responsibility (EPR) policies and programs. For more information, contact info@productstewardship.net or visit us at www.ProductStewardship.net.

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