On March 14, I received an enthusiastic email from Susan V. Collins, Executive Director of the US-based Container Recycling Institute (CRI, see www.container-recycling.org and www.bottlebill.org) about my editorial from the February/March edition entitled “Nestle and the Watering Down of EPR.”
I’ve been a fan of CRI for some time – their website offers excellent data, analysis and perspectives. While CRI does several things, I think it’s fair to say a big part of its mandate is the promotion of deposit-refund systems for used beverage containers, along with reuse and reduction of packaging waste; these are promoted by CRI in tandem with curbside recycling for other materials such as newsprint and boxboard, instead of curbside recycling as a “total solution.”
My editorial was about how the soft-drink (and bottled water) industry is appropriating the term extended producer responsibility (EPR) and twisting it for its own purposes. The premise of the article was a very questionable article from an executive at Nestle Water, putting spin on a white paper that consultants from Natural Logic wrote for Coca-Cola.
Susan Collins mentioned in her email that CRI had just finished drafting a response to the Natural Logic white paper for Coke. This is now released and I’ve copy/pasted the short executive summary below.
You can download the whole 13-page document from a link on CRI’s homepage here: www.container-recycling.org CRI Comments on Natural Logic’s White Paper on EPR for Packaging
March 2011 Executive summary
Natural Logic recently produced a white paper for the Coca Cola Company that summarizes an industry policy agenda for the next generation of packaging waste management. In line with the principle of extended producer responsibility or “EPR,” the proposal incorporates some producer financing and management of packaging waste recovery.
CRI enthusiastically supports both the principle of EPR and the goal of reducing packaging waste, but finds significant problems with the Natural Logic paper in three main areas:
1. Natural Logic is ambiguous about the materials and waste sources targeted: in examining the impressive sounding “70% recovery of packaging” (and possibly printed paper) goal, we found that it could potentially result in the recovery of as little as 5% of municipal waste.
2. The Natural Logic proposal pits container deposit-refund systems against curbside material recovery systems, continuing the longstanding beverage industry approach to avoiding product-specific recovery laws. This contradicts the model of advanced material management systems in Europe, Canada, and elsewhere, however, where the principle of EPR is well established and packaging directives are in place. These systems rely on a blend of strategies to achieve high levels of packaging recovery, centrally including curbside systems and deposit-refund programs that complement one another, rather than
attempting to rely on a single mechanism.
3. Natural Logic fails to go beyond “diversion” to address the quality and fate of the recovered materials; the recycling priorities associated with different lifecycle greenhouse gas and emissions profiles of products and materials within the packaging class; product- or material-specific recovery goals within the packaging class; and the recovery of packaging litter. These are critical issues, especially within a sustainable materials management framework linked to greenhouse gas reduction imperatives. Beverage container litter in particular has lately been subject to greatly increased scrutiny due to rising concern about marine plastic pollution from land-based sources.
CRI believes that U.S. states that are exploring the shifting of financial and possibly physical responsibility for packaging waste to producers and consumers should study existing models, particularly in Canadian provinces that provide the most directly relevant examples. One of the common themes they will find, in contradiction to Natural Logic’s claims, is that container deposit-refund systems together with corrugated box recovery systems, both of which recover significant amounts of material from outside residential frameworks, have tended to serve as the backbone of a high-performing approach to comprehensively reducing the flow of packaging waste to landfills