California Looks to Reform Waste Responsibility

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Extended producer responsibility (EPR), the concept that manufacturers and vendors are responsible for the cost of managing their end-of-life products in an environmentally responsible way, continues to be a pertinent issue for consumers across the U.S.

California, in particular, is looking to extend EPR in the state through the proposed California Product Stewardship Act, which would potentially incentivize producers “to design products and packaging that are less toxic, more durable, reusable, recyclable and/or biodegradable.” According to supporters, the bill could reduce waste, litter and greenhouse gases and create thousands of green jobs in the state.

For consumers, EPR legislation means manufacturers are responsible for putting your old stuff to good use or disposing of it responsibly. Photo: static.seekingalpha.com

For consumers, EPR legislation means manufacturers are responsible for putting your old stuff to good use or disposing of it responsibly. Photo: static.seekingalpha.com

“Product stewardship will reduce government spending and greenhouse gases, while creating jobs that are desperately needed in our state. This bill will help move California out of its budget crisis and into a ‘cradle to cradle’ state that takes care of its own,” said Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro (D-Arcata), chair of the Assembly’s Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee.

“EPR policies are working in Canada, Europe, Japan and other countries,” said Heidi Sanborn, executive director of the California Product Stewardship Council (CPSC). “The primary responsibility should rest with producers because only they make design and packaging decisions. It is far less expensive to design a product and packaging to reduce waste than it is to create expensive end-of-life disposal and recycling systems.”

Supporters of EPR generally advocate for a “framework” approach to legislation, meaning many products are addressed at once, instead of product by product, which can be expensive and time-consuming. According to CPSC, “Even with new recycling programs, California is still generating more waste than ever – 40 million tons annually. In a free market, EPR reduces waste while creating opportunities to grow businesses and jobs in recycling and manufacturing industries.”

Some states have enacted EPR legislation for certain products, such as mercury containing thermostats and electronics, while others like Minnesota and Oregon are hoping to enact legislation similar to the California Product Stewardship Act.

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