NWPSC May 2020 Newsletter

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May 2020


The Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) is hiring a Managing Director for Policy and Programs.
And the Washington State Dept. of Ecology is currently hiring for multiple positions, including the E-Cycle Washington electronics stewardship program, and the recently created Recycling Development Center:

EPR, Packaging, and Plastics

The Story of Plastic
The Story of Plastic, presented by The Story of Stuff Project, is "drawing back the curtain on the true cost of plastic pollution." The Story of Stuff Project is a member of #breakfreefromplastic, a "global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution." The Washington State Recycling Association (WSRA) is hosting a virtual screening of the Story of Plastic - register here to watch it by May 29. Visit StoryofPlastic.org to find, or host, another virtual screening.

In the wake of reports from the Seattle-King County Responsible Recycling Task Force and the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) extolling the benefits of extended producer responsibility (EPR) systems over our current fragmented, local approach, EPR is in the news.

In Recycling Today, Resa Dimino and Bryce Hesterman of RSS roundup current legislation and activities on packaging EPR in the U.S., including Washington and Oregon, as well as Canada, writing that a "growing chorus is pointing to extended producer responsibility (EPR) legislation for printed paper and packaging (PPP) as a solution... Although we are witnessing some state- and federal-level interest in EPR legislation as a method for sustainably financing PPP recycling, a majority of U.S. communities continue to try to maintain their programs within the current system. Whether EPR is the solution, serious discussions around the U.S. recovery system are taking place, and the time for significant solutions has come."

Waste Dive covered Maine and California EPR legislation and quoted PSI and the National Stewardship Action Council (NSAC), writing that despite "the stalled momentum [due to the pandemic], a number of EPR supporters say they view the current economic disruptions as underscoring the perceived advantages of such a system."

Pacific NW magazine wrote that communities across Washington state have "launched campaigns, with slogans like “Empty, Clean and Dry,” to nudge residents into better habits and stop “wishful recycling”... But there’s a limit to what education can achieve in the absence of policies to create a robust environment for recycling... We don’t want to put the burden on the consumer. We would like to see the responsibility placed on the manufacturers" as is done in British Columbia's RecycleBC EPR system.

Grist wrote that "what has been revealed after [China's] National Sword is that this is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a technology problem. It’s a consumption problem and a manufacturing problem... any attempt to fix plastic recycling should come with constraints on the production of new materials — only manufacturing plastics that can be easily broken down and reused, for example, or mandating that companies include a certain percentage of recycled materials in their products." The federal Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act would phase out many single-use plastic items like utensils and straws and require big companies to pay for recycling and composting products.

The Intercept quoted Senator Tom Udall, who introduced the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act in February, “By asking for a billion-dollar handout, Big Plastic is trying to maintain what already is the status quo: that is, taxpayers funding and taking responsibility for the waste of plastic producers. When we surface from this pandemic, plastic pollution will still be at crisis levels — and matters may be even worse, as industry tries to exploit this pandemic to leverage more marketing for single-use products.”
"Udall was referring to recent attempts by the plastic industry to use the coronavirus crisis as a justification for rolling back bans on plastic bags and producing more single-use products. In March, the Plastics Industry Association wrote to the secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, asking him to “make a public statement on the health and safety benefits seen in single-use plastics.” The group also supplied its member companies with form letters requesting that their businesses that make single-use plastics, including packaging, be deemed essential."

More on plastics in the time of COVID-19:

Programs & News

Talking Trash and beverage containers
Changing Markets recently published two reports on container deposit laws / deposit return systems (DRS), one on California (Genie in a Bottle: Unlocking the full potential of California’s bottle bill) and the other on Austria (Plastic Pollution Lobby: A coalition against the introduction of a deposit return system in Austria). The introduction of a deposit return system in Austria "will increase reuse and recycling rates, reduce virgin plastic, protect the environment and free up over €120 million of resources that are currently being spent on clean-ups."

Carpet industry ends "voluntary product stewardship" program
The U.S. carpet manufacturing industry's voluntary product stewardship program, begun in 2014 to "find market-based solutions to divert carpet from landfills and to quell extended producer responsibility (EPR) legislation," will end in June. Floor Daily and Resource Recycling covered the news.

HPSA announces new director
The Health Products Stewardship Association, a not-for-profit organization responsible for the effective and safe collection and disposal of unused and expired medications and medical sharps in Canada, announced a change in leadership after more than 15 years. The HPSA, with 148 member producers, has safely collected and disposed of over 3 million kilograms of medications and 1.9 million kilograms of medical sharps since inception in 1999.

Events & Webinars

With the global virus pandemic disrupting health and lives, and many of 2020's previously scheduled conferences and meetings cancelled or delayed, if you are healthy and have time, here are upcoming as well as previously recorded product stewardship / EPR webinars that may be of interest:

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