NWPSC December 2020 Newsletter

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December 2020

Programs & Legislation

Safe Medication Return available across Washington Statemedicine take back
As of November 21, Washington State's newest producer responsibility program is up and running. The Safe Medication Return program, operated by MED-Project LLC and overseen by the Washington State Dept. of Health, will give residents "free, convenient, and environmentally responsible options for disposing of unwanted medication," funded by drug manufacturers at no cost to taxpayers. Mail your expired or unwanted medications for free or drop them off at a participating kiosk: med-project.org

Similar medicine EPR programs in Oregon and California are set to begin soon. British Columbia's program began in the 1990s.

Oregon and Washington recycling
The Oregon Recycling Steering Committee (RSC), convened by Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to modernize Oregon's recycling system, resulted in Legislative Concept 578, which would require producers of covered products to join a producer responsibility organization, submit a program plan to DEQ, and to reimburse local governments for certain expenses, among other requirements of a statewide EPR system for consumer brands and packaging producers. This is a draft concept prior to Oregon's 2021 legislative session and is expected to be revised.

The Washington State Senate Environment, Energy, and Technology committee December 1 work session included a presentation and discussion of the plastic packaging report and its three primary recommendations: 1) EPR for all packaging, 2) deposit return system for beverage containers, 3) recycled content requirements for plastic packaging. A bill including these recommendations is expected in 2021. Watch video of the 15-min Senate work session.

Expanding Recycling and Recovery in British Columbia
The British Columbia Ministry of Environment's Policy Intentions Paper (PDF) sought public comment by November 20 on expanding extended producer responsibility (EPR) products and programs. "By regulating even more products, EPR can further reduce local and Indigenous governments’ waste management costs, make recycling more accessible for consumers with province-wide collection networks, grow B.C. recycling businesses, incent innovation, and create job opportunities." Products under consideration to be added to the Recycling Regulation "to be recovered and recycled by producers" include: mattresses, moderately hazardous products, electronic and electrical products and batteries, packaging and paper products beyond residential sources.

British Columbia already regulates EPR programs for most consumer electronic and electrical products, from flashlights to fridges along with batteries and lightbulbs, as well as paint, solvents, gasoline, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and other products. However, "the rapid adoption of new trends and emerging technology has led to gaps in product coverage, such as e-cigarettes, vapes, motorized yard decorations, large drones, photovoltaic (solar) panels, and electric vehicle batteries."


Basel Convention Plastic Waste Controls begin January 1
On Jan. 1, 2021, it will be illegal for 187 countries, parties to the Basel Convention, to receive a variety of plastics from the United States. Plastic was officially added to the Basel Convention in 2019.

From the Basel Action Network's (BAN) Dec. 10 press release, "US Set to Become the World's Biggest Criminal Trafficker in Plastic Waste":
"These plastic wastes that are routinely collected from American households by cities and their waste haulers and just as routinely shipped to developing countries around the world have been newly listed in the Basel Convention to be subject to international control. And, with less than a month to go before this trade from the US becomes what Interpol will consider illegal trafficking in waste, neither the US federal government nor state governments appear to have a plan to comply with the new rules. Rather, in recent weeks, US companies and municipalities, far from tapering off to meet the January 1 deadline, have increased their exports to developing countries where the recycling that does take place is highly polluting and much of the imported plastic bags and food containers don't get recycled at all, but are simply dumped and burned.

"The grand American strategy to combat plastic waste appears to be to export as much of it as possible," said Jim Puckett, Executive Director of BAN. "This country is the biggest source of the global plastic crisis and our big solution is simply to push the problem onto our global neighbors that have even less technology to properly deal with it."

According to the CBC, the US and Canada "quietly signed a bilateral agreement" that could allow them "to evade some of its obligations to stop shipping plastic waste to poor countries around the world."

EPR to move the U.S. towards zero waste
A report from U.S. PIRG, Break the Waste Cycle: producer responsibility policies to move the U.S. towards zero waste, recommends producer responsibility as "a proven approach to reducing waste and improving recycling... Producer responsibility programs around the world have existed for decades and have successfully increased collection and recycling rates for the products they cover. With the growing urgency of the climate crisis, the rising impact of plastic pollution, and the continuing impacts of China’s waste import ban on America’s recycling system, U.S. cities and states, as well as the federal government, should adopt thoughtfully designed producer responsibility programs – especially for packaging and printed products."

How EPR can target innovation
Resource Recycling published the third in a four-part series on EPR, the latest by Pierre Benabidès and Peter Hargreave, exploring the impacts associated with how outcomes are set: collection and recycling targets, accessibility, and other requirements. They conclude that governments "often spend more time worrying that targets are set too high rather than too low; however, there are far more issues created if targets are set too low. The targets are what force investments in design, collection and processing infrastructure. If set too low, the status quo continues, and any innovation is hindered. If set too high, companies might not meet targets but are unlikely to be penalized if they prove they are making progressive strides to achieving the established targets."

Reusable vs Single-Use packaging study
A study by the University of Utrecht, supported by Reloop, Zero Waste Europe and Break Free From Plastic, analyzed Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) studies to compare the impact of single-use packaging and the reusable alternatives, including beverage packaging, carrier bags, food containers and transport packaging. "The results provide a clearer understanding of what conditions need to be met for reusable packaging to be the best choice and make a range of recommendations for governments to consider... Of the 32 LCAs analyzed, 72% show positive results for the environmental impact of reusable packaging compared to single-use. In terms of environmental impact, it was found that four key parameters have a substantial influence on the success of reusable packaging: transport; production; number of cycles; and end-of-life."

Events & Webinars

Upcoming as well as previously recorded product stewardship / EPR webinars of interest:

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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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