Beverage makers and oil companies could be doing more to improve recycling of their packaging and products in the U.S., Michele Raymond, publisher of State Recycling Laws Update, said in a speech before the Virginia Recycling Association.
Raymond, who has been tracking recycling policy worldwide for 12 years, concluded that even though states are paying a lot of attention to electronics and toxics in the waste stream, attention needs to be paid to packaging, commercial, industrial waste, and used oil disposal and its packaging.
She pointed out that trying to make industry come in and take care of all packaging, as is required in several European countries, will not actually save much tax money, and will not necessarily reduce packaging consumption.
Despite spending $15 billion per year on packaging waste recovery, European packaging consumption went up 8 per cent per capita between 1997 and 2001, though recycling rates are higher.
Raymond suggested that state and local governments use landfill bans as an effective way to push recycling of various packaging and products, as Raymond’s annual survey shows the policy has been effective in many states.
She also suggested that states band together and push the beverage industry to fund national education programs and large venue recycling.
“Pilots are not enough — local governments do not have the budget to fund major education programs, or large venue recycling,” she says. “Major brand owners have excellent expertise in advertising — they need to use it to change U.S. culture away from litter and towards recycling.” She pointed out that up to 65 per cent of beverages are now consumed away from home.
Recent Raymond research and state surveys indicate that only one state, California, requires fees directly from oil companies to help fund used oil management, and that only two states are recycling used oil bottles.
“If the oil industry had to ensure recovery of these plastic bottles, it would help fund good technology nationwide to improve plastics recycling overall.” The U.S. lags Europe and Japan.
Plastics recycling rates have lagged in the U.S., as manufacturers step up their use of the material.
Raymond sympathized with concerns over funding of electronics recycling, but pointed out that with the exception of Canada, most producer responsibility systems are national, and that many producers do not have control over their products locally.
There is no way all 50 states would have the votes to pass EPR laws on electronics, she reasoned. This would lead to a very expensive and unfair system, with companies spending all their resources on the regulated states only, she concluded.
“Any national recovery system is better than no system,” she said, adding that larger retailers could play an important role in keeping costs down because of their ability backhaul to warehouses.
She added that it makes no sense for U.S. states to try to regulate heavy metals in electronics, because industry is already spending billions to phase out such metals by the July 2006 deadline in Europe, under the Restrictions of Certain Hazardous Substances directive.
“HP has 120 people working full time on RoHS compliance,” she noted, adding that it will take 3,000 RoHS declarations to make one computer. “I’m not making this up –” this is the biggest regulatory issue the electronics industry has faced.”
Raymond also questioned the true environmental benefit of phasing out lead solder, when the largest source of lead – cathode ray tubes – are exempt from the ban.
Raymond Communications publishes the newsletters State Recycling Laws Update and Recycling laws International, and produces the Take it Back conferences. The next regular conference will be March 7-9 in Alexandria, VA.
For more information visit www.raymond.com or call 301-345-4237