A new report by As You Sow, an organization that promotes corporate environmental responsibility, shows that a staggering $11.4 billion worth of recyclables enter landfills each year– materials that could be easily reused or recycled.
Forty percent of the U.S. waste stream is comprised of packaging, most of which can be recycled, the report says. The haul and management expenses of those valuable recyclables-turned-trash eventually falls back on the U.S. taxpayer.
“Americans throw away more materials than any other country,” says Conrad MacKerron, Senior Program Director of As You Sow in a press release. “This used to be a sign of economic progress, but in an age of declining natural resources, such waste is now an indicator of inefficient use of valuable raw materials and market failure. It’s simply not good business to throw away billions of dollars of reusable resources.”
The resources that comprise new packaging like petroleum, minerals and fiber are finite, which means recycling is more cost-effective for everyone in the long run.
As You Sow argues that shifting some or all of the financial burden of trash management from the taxpayers to trash producers, known as “extended producer responsibility,” (EPR) could lead to fewer recyclable materials winding up in the trash, a reduction in carbon emissions and use of finite resources to produce new packaging and creating thousands of potential new jobs in recycling processing and collection.
The organization has successfully helped companies like Safeway, Target, Kroger, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, WalMart and more adopt EPR policies.
“State‐of‐the‐art mining of our post‐consumer packaging ‘trash’ is a crucial step to propel us towards sustainable production and consumption policies that will ease the stress on our planet’s limited natural resources,” MacKerron says. “It’s good business sense and basic common sense.”