Friday, November 15, 2013

America Recycles, Why Not Rayovac?

By Andrew Dobbs, Texas 
Campaign for the Environment

Today, November 15, is America Recycles Day. While most of us have access to good curbside or drop off recycling, and many states now require computer and TV makers to take back and recycle used electronics, inside much of our e-waste are single-use batteries–and unfortunately, there is still no take-back program for those batteries.

One company is the main obstacle to moving forward on battery recycling – Rayovac. That’s why recycling advocates across the country are using this America Recycles Day to tell Rayovac that it’s time to Take ‘Em Back!
Rayovac actually has the audacity to tell US consumers to throw batteries in the trash while telling European customers that this is harmful to the environment. The four major battery makers were all set to begin a national recycling program for single-use batteries two years ago until Rayovac backed out. Energizer, Duracell and Panasonic are all on board. So it’s up to all of us to tell Rayovac: America Recycles, Why Not Rayovac?
Take time this week of America Recycles Day to send messages to Rayovac and let them know it’s time to change.
1.      Tweet at @Rayovac that you want recycling here in the US just like they get in Europe and elsewhere. Use the hashtags #AmericaReyclesDay and #takeitbackrayovac, and retweet our messages on this topic. 

2.      Go “Like” Rayovac on Facebook and post a message or a comment on their page telling them that they need to stop lagging on recycling.  They are erasing consumer messages critical of the company, so make sure you also post to your own timeline, highlighting @Rayovac so that they’ll know that the public is hearing all about their failures to lead.
Here are some ideas of what to tell them:
·  America Recycles, Why Not Rayovac?
·  We won’t accept your double standards. It’s time to provide Americans with battery recycling like in Canada and Europe.
·  Energizer, Duracell and Panasonic all support battery recycling. Why not Rayovac?
·  Why do you offer battery recycling in other countries, but not in the U.S.?
·  Why do you tell your customers in Europe that throwing away batteries can harm the environment, but tell Americans that it’s safe to throw them away?
·  Thousands of consumers have asked you to step up and offer real recycling for your products: when will you act?
·  As the holiday buying season approaches, I will be taking Rayovac’s record on recycling into consideration when choosing which batteries to buy for my family.
Ten years ago computer and TV makers were dead set against providing real recycling to their consumers.  Now, a decade later these companies provide this service and are committed to recycling. With your help we hope to turn Rayovac in the same direction so that all of us might have convenient access to recycling for all of our products.  Thanks, and Happy America Recycles Day!  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Putting boundaries on selling Stuff

By Bill Sheehan, Executive Director

I was asked recently about my “theory of change” in the light of ever-increasing power of corporations that put profits ahead of sustainability of people and the planet. I agree that concentration of corporate power, combined with weakening civic power, is part of what's driving unsustainable production and consumption. My theory of change is that governments are essential to controlling corporate power and that government is strengthened by civic rather than consumer action. That’s one reason why  Product Policy Institute focuses on policy solutions.

What excites me about the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policy approach is that it is a way to get governments doing what they do best – regulating and playing referee – and corporations doing what they do best – innovating solutions to problems. I think local governments got off track by getting in the business of picking up after wasteful corporations. That was fine a century ago when there was a local public health hazard, but now the health hazard is more of a global threat from the scale of throughput of energy and materials. It's hard to be an effective regulator when you're also a service provider. And it's doubly problematic when you are short-circuiting feedback to the parties making disposable and toxic products.

I see EPR as high leverage because it puts boundaries on the essential thing that most industries exist to do, , directly and indirectly: sell more Stuff. ("Indirectly" includes, for example, corporations strip-mining for metals that are made into products that are transported to stores and ultimately bought by consumers.) And when you look at all the energy embodied in Stuff (44% of global US greenhouse gas emissions impacts), getting a handle on the flow of goods and materials gets at the heart of some pretty big problems.

EPR policies put conditions at the highest leverage point in the production-consumption system: the point of sale.  It puts conditions on the parties that design Stuff: If you want to sell your goods in this jurisdiction they must meet performance standards in the public interest.  Government may determine it is in the public interest that products are designed for source reduction, reuse and recycling; that products don't become waste when consumers are done with them; that they don't do irreparable harm to the planet.  Companies then innovate and compete to meet the standards.  Corporate accountability framed this way passes the in-law test: it's reasonable and fair.

I understand that establishing corporate accountability for the impacts of manufactured Stuff is just one piece of a big puzzle. But it is an underappreciated strategy that has potential for transformative change far beyond recycling.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

It's Time to Give Principled-EPR for Packaging A Chance in Ontario

We’ve been posting a lot on Ontario lately because some bold changes are being proposed to the EPR system.  Usman Valiante has just written a compelling critique.  It’s on the long side but well worth the read. Despite the title of his article, if the Ontario legislation is changed per his suggestions, the Province of Ontario will become North America's leading jurisdiction for EPR and waste reduction and diversion.  (One quibble:  Usman recites the history of how municipalities got snookered into providing curbside recycling by the beverage industry and expedient politicians, how the original and current waste acts thwarted true producer responsibility, and then defends the municipal role as a success to build on.)  Reprinted with permission.
 -- Bill Sheehan
Usman Valiante is Senior Policy Analyst with Corporate Policy Group LLP. He has 20 years experience in the management of commercial and public policy issues involving a complex mix of economics, environmental science, law, public policy, business strategy and politics.   

By Usman Valiante
Solid Waste & Recycling magazine in Canada
Sept 15, 2013
The effect of the people’s agreeing that there must be central planning, without agreeing on the ends, will be rather as if a group of people were to commit themselves to take a journey together without agreeing where they want to go; with the result that they may all have to make a journey which most of them do not want at all.
                   -- Frederich August von Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (1944)

Ontario municipalities are rightly frustrated with sharing responsibility for the collection and recycling of printed-paper and packaging (PPP) – what Ontarians call “Blue Box” materials – with producers.
As the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) states in its submission regarding Bill 91 Waste Reduction Act, “ It is quite challenging and frustrating under the current Waste Diversion Act that, although municipalities are legally responsible for more than 50% of the net costs of the Blue Box program and all the infrastructure investments we have made, we have no official voice in the actual design or implementation of the Blue Box Program Plan nor do we have any influence over producers’ packaging decisions.”
 A legitimate gripe, no ifs, ands or buts.
As we sympathize with the plight of Ontario municipalities we should remember that “shared responsibility” didn’t happened by accident but was created by design.
As per Hayek’s allegory, in establishing a centrally planned “shared responsibility” paradigm for recycling we have gone on a journey without a clear destination and have ended up in a place where no one wants to be.
As drafted, the Waste Reduction Act (WRA) not only builds on, but also amplifies the faulty design of the Waste Diversion Act 2002 (WDA). The WDA itself is the product of a long history of decisions based on short-term political expedients.
I remember the common refrains during the debates over Bill 90 Waste Diversion Act over 11 years ago, “It isn’t perfect, but let’s get it done and we’ll fix it later” and “If we don’t take this deal we might not get another one”.
Well, now is later and we aren’t talking about fixing anything but taking another big step down the existing track that will make things much worse. Once again, the biggest losers will be Ontario municipalities and Ontario consumers.
How so? Well, let’s start at the beginning.
To understand the fundamental problem with the design of the Blue Box funding model (which is really the guts of the Blue Box Program Plan operated by Stewardship Ontario) one must revisit its history.
How did the idea of producer “funding” of the Blue Box under the moribund concept of “shared responsibility” or “product stewardship” come to be?
It all started way back in the late 1970s with the first great churn in the primordial soup of packaging politics brought on by the members of the Ontario Soft-Drink Association as they sought to escape refillable bottles (or more accurately their network of franchise bottlers) and provide consumers with what they termed “packaging freedom”.
The story as it unfolded in Ontario is a fascinating one and its abridgement below does it no justice whatsoever.
In a nutshell, in 1987 the Ontario Government (of which the Honourable Jim Bradley was Environment Minister) reached an agreement with the soft-drink industry by which it would reduce provincial quotas for the sale of refillable soft-drink containers (the quotas themselves set under the previous Progressive Conservative government of Premier William G. Davis) in exchange for the soft drink industry and its packaging suppliers facilitating the establishment of a provincial Blue Box system.
The deal effectively allowed soft-drink producers to finish dismantling a 100% producer responsibility program of deposit-refund and refilling in exchange for the promise of broader municipal-based, curbside, multi-material recycling – a system that would ostensibly help alleviate the province’s “landfill crisis”.
The Blue Box program was sold on the idea that producers would provide seed capital funding to start up the Blue Box and in the longer-term “valuable recyclable materials” would sustain it by generating municipal revenues in excess of collection and recycling costs. Most notably, aluminum soft-drink cans were to become the “gold” in the Blue Box.
When Ontario municipalities came to understand the reality of the economics of secondary material markets they realized that the Blue Box wasn’t a moneymaker but a costly and risky venture. Some threatened to abandon curbside recycling altogether if producer funding was not forthcoming.
With Ontario’s New Democrats now in power and recognizing growing municipal angst, with calls for the introduction of a province-wide deposit-refund system and regulated use of refillable containers, key industry players coalesced to form the Canadian Industry Packaging Stewardship Initiative (CIPSI) in 1992.
CIPSI proposed to initially fund municipalities to the tune of $65/tonne of Blue Box material recycled with 2/3 of “efficient” net municipal recycling costs borne by industry once efficiency metrics had been established. The amount of municipal funding offered by CIPSI was reduced in later proposals predicated on the then rising tide of secondary material prices.
The Provincial Government took the CIPSI proposal to consultation in early 1994 as a proposed regulatory measure. At the same time it regulated Ontario municipalities into delivering Blue Box programs through Ontario Regulation 101/94 under the Environmental Protection Act.
In November 1994, AMO and key Ontario environmental groups, including the Recycling Council of Ontario, deemed the CIPSI proposal insufficient.
With the 1995 election of the Progressive Conservatives the CIPSI proposal was turfed as a new tax. Shortly thereafter the Ontario Government ended provincial subsidies to municipalities for operation of the Blue Box.
Municipalities, now regulated into delivering the Blue Box, were saddled with all of its cost.
The Ontario Government’s soft political underbelly was its own liquor agency the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) – the single largest source of packaging by weight in the Blue Box.
Municipalities clamored for a LCBO deposit-refund system to alleviate the cost of recycling LCBO packaging and more strategically as way to push the concept of “producer responsibility” back onto the provincial agenda.
In August 1998 the City of Toronto introduced a concept of a City by-law mandating an LCBO deposit-refund system in order to pressure Minister of Environment to implement a deposit return program for LCBO containers.
In October 1998, Minister Norm Sterling introduced a plan to fund the Blue Box through a “Waste Diversion Organization” with the LCBO contributing $4 million to Ontario municipalities to help offset their costs of recycling LCBO containers through the Blue Box.
Behind the scenes, Corporations Supporting Recycling (CSR) – the latest transmogrification of CIPSI – worked with the MOE to develop a regulatory package to address the political crisis (CSR later became the backbone of the nascent Stewardship Ontario under the Waste Diversion Act).
It was in this political climate that CIPSI was resurrected, repackaged and rebranded as a 50-50 industry-municipal “cost-sharing” model to be incorporated into a new law – Bill 90, Waste Diversion Act.
As of 2002 the 50-50 split is law.
Today, as AMO writes, “materials that end up in municipal recovery systems are becoming very difficult to manage. As stewards introduce new, lightweight and difficult materials into the system, they should ultimately be responsible and accountable for the end of life costs of managing these materials”, producers gripe about municipal PPP collection and processing costs that have escalated from $250/tonne in 2007 to well over $320/tonne today.
The squabbling over costs and control is incessant.
The legacy of the WDA is frustration and discord – between producers and municipalities, between producers and the resource recovery sector and between the Province of Ontario and producers.
This frustration arises because none of these parties is self-determinant in fulfilling its respective role. Meanwhile, the province is locked into a system that is characterized by stagnant PPP recycling rates and escalating costs.
So how to fix this mess?
The great economist Ronald Coase, who passed away this past Labour Day, wrote in his seminal paper The Problem of Social Cost that before implementing a policy undertake an, “…analysis with a situation approximating that which actually exists, to examine the effects of a proposed policy change, and to attempt to decide whether the new situation would be, in total, better or worse than the original one.”
Following Coase’s public policy advice, let’s look at what the Ontario Government is proposing for municipalities under the Producers’ Responsibilities to Municipalities provisions of Bill 91 WRA:
The right to register with the Waste Reduction Authority (the Authority) whereby producers are then obligated to compensate municipalities for collection and recycling of all designated materials (PPP, tires, batteries, paint, you name it);
Financial compensation for recycling activities through either ‘voluntary’ agreements with producers or compensation payments determined either by the Authority or through regulation; and
The authority to design, deliver and control collection and processing of designated wastes for which they have taken responsibility.
Under this approach municipalities’ ability to negotiate voluntary agreements with producers is backstopped by the ability to invoke the Authority to intervene and set the rate of producer compensation to municipalities.
What Bill 91 is proposing to do is fully institutionalize the oversight, mediation and arbitration of Blue Box fees payable by producers within its own regulation making powers and the powers afforded to the Authority under law. The resulting utility prices set by the Authority will essentially be – and I use the common law definition here, not the political one – taxes.
Producers will make offers to municipalities and when they are rejected, the Authority will step in whereby producers will mobilize a platoon of technical consultants, lawyers and lobbyists to “work the program”. With gross Blue Box costs heading toward $200 million a year, spending $2 million in high priced help offers a good return on investment if it will save $10 million a year in Blue Box taxation.
For its part, the municipal financial fate will rest with an Authority that is supposed to be overseeing environmental compliance but will be spending all of its time and bloated resources refereeing producer-municipal disputes.
In the longer run the utility scheme will only be sustained as long as the coercive force of the province is committed to it. A change in political winds and municipalities will be back to square one.
In a nutshell, what Bill 91 WRA is offering in terms of the roles of the Authority, municipalities and producers is lousy institutional design – more fighting, more discord, more paralysis, a war of attrition with no more waste reduction.
The WRA municipal provisions are a bad deal for Ontario municipalities, for producers and for consumers who will end up paying for the whole enchilada.
So then, what’s the solution?
Principled, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).
Principled EPR means is holding producers fully responsible and accountable for managing their wastes. Specifically:
Producer collection and recycling targets whereby producers must meet regulated waste service standards (i.e. collection service) and waste diversionstandards (i.e. collection targets and recycling standards) for designated materials;
Shifting of regulatory requirements to collect and process designated materials from municipalities to producers with the ability for producers to negotiate with municipalities for the collection and processing of designated materials and for municipalities to negotiate to their advantage or to option out entirely leaving producers to establish their own systems to discharge their regulatory obligations; and
Penalties that producers must face for failing to achieve waste diversion standards, with penalties set in proportion to the portion of the waste service standard they failed to achieve. These penalties would be payable to municipalities in recognition of the fact that the uncollected portion of designated materials remain in the municipal waste stream. As AMO states, “To mitigate the potential risk of IPR diversion programs performing poorly, appropriate failsafe compensation schemes for municipalities are required”.
To be successful in meeting regulated waste service and diversion standards, producers will need to negotiate access to the designated wastes collected in existing systems (largely municipal) or build entirely new collection systems themselves.
For printed-paper and packaging collected at the curb, producers need municipalities to help them discharge their obligations. Given the historical municipal role in delivering curbside collection systems and the bond municipalities have built with residents they are in the best position to work with producers that need access to these materials.
As such, municipalities are afforded bargaining power that they do not currently have under the shared responsibility system set out in the WDA – the materials they collect will have value to producers that must meet environmental performance targets.
Under EPR the risk of processing and marketing collected materials should be completely borne by producers not municipalities. However, with that assumption of responsibility and associated risk comes the reasonable expectation of control and self-determinacy.
Repealing Ontario Regulation 101/94 which requires municipalities to provide Blue Box services strengthens, not weakens, the municipal negotiating position – either producers negotiate reasonably and cooperate and collaborate with municipalities or they face having to deliver Blue Box collection and engage residents themselves.
For materials better collected in systems other than curbside and MHSW depots (i.e. private depot, return-to-retail, return-to-charities, special collection events etc.), producers facing penalties have a strong incentive to collect designated materials in new and innovative ways in order to keep those materials out of the municipal waste stream – mobile phone producers don’t want municipalities collecting mobile phones and municipalities would be happy if none appeared in their waste stream.
Bill 91 WRA should be amended to eliminate the provisions related to Producers’ Responsibilities to Municipalities and the Authority should not be provided with the jurisdiction to, “…establish a compensation formula for every designated waste”.
The role of the province should be to set regulated waste service and diversion standards and the role of the Authority should be to ensure those outcomes are met.
By holding producers responsible and accountable for waste diversion outcomes the necessary arrangements, collaborations and innovations necessary to achieve those outcomes will happen of their own accord.
We’ve talked about producer responsibility for a long time in Ontario. Maybe it’s time to actually give it a chance.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Growing Business with EPR in Maine

By Martin Grohman and Clayton Kyle

Martin Grohman
Clayton Kyle

Marty and Clayton are board members of Product Policy Institute.   They are both Maine business entrepreneurs working in spaces created or helped by extended producer responsibility policies.  Clayton created an innovative and successful business recovering beverage containers, capitalizing on the opportunity created by the Maine bottle bill – the grandmother of EPR laws in the US.  Marty co-founded a composite decking manufacturing company before becoming Director of Sustainability  for GAF, North America’s largest roofing manufacture.  In that role he promotes shingle recycling, as well as internal efforts promoting sustainability.  Recently, Marty began hosting a podcast show called The Grow Maine Show in which Marty interviews Maine entrepreneurs.  Episode #4 is an interview with fellow PPI board member Clayton Kyle.  Listen here to learn about how many minutes to cook lobsters, what instruments they play, and how the bottle bill created a great business opportunity.

The remarkable thing about Clayton Kyle:  he has developed large-scale, successful businesses in two completely unrelated fields: commercial roofing insulation and beverage container recycling.  In between, he started a venture fund, and is skilled at recognizing opportunities.  When an insulation manufacturer consolidated, with no one left to serve the market, he put together a team and pursued the opportunity, developing a national business that still operates today.  When container recycling was frustrating (ever try “reverse vending”? – if so, you’re probably still in line), he licensed the technology to build Clynk, now processing more than 80 million containers a month. These startups were not based on specific technical knowledge, but rather upon Clayton’s ability to recognize an opportunity, and expertise in the business of growing businesses.

Clynk takes the frustrating out of recycling.  If you’ve seen Clynk’s branding, you know what I mean.  It’s eye-catching, and it conveys a key message: “We recycling easy and fun.”  It even makes you feel a little virtuous (Clayton and I are both board members of The Product Policy Institute, which helps promote recycling legislation).  But the thing that surprised everybody (although it seems obvious now) is that a shopper is more likely to shop at a store that offers Clynk

Plus, you’ll learn things you didn’t know about deposit bottles; what to expect if your son builds a motorized bike; and the right kind of container to buy your beer in!

Listen here.

Friday, August 30, 2013

E-waste: California's government-managed program ranks 7th in per capita collection

By Bill Sheehan, Executive Director

 A new fact sheet by Barbara Kyle of the Electronics Take-Back Coalition asks the question: How does the California e-waste program compare to other states?

California, the first state to pass an e-waste recycling law, established a consumer fee model. Consumers pay a fee at purchase on covered products
(video displays and portable DVD players) which go into a recycling fund administered by the State, reimbursing recyclers and collectors. 

Twenty three other states have adopted the “extended producer responsibility” model known as EPR. These require the manufacturers to take financial responsibility for collecting and recycling used electronics.
The fact sheet looks only at collection rates.  The bottom line:  California ranks 7th in terms of pounds collected per capita, despite its being in operation the longest and including e-waste from business which most other states don’t include.

Monday, August 26, 2013

New AMERIPEN Report Passes the Buck on Sustainable Financing for Recycling

By Matt Prindiville, Associate Director

Last week, I heard from a colleague that AMERIPEN (the American Institute for Packaging and the Environment) was releasing a new report analyzing strategies to increase the recovery of post-consumer packaging in the United States.  AMERIPEN is a trade association, representing approximately 30 companies, most of which are large, international consumer-packaged goods corporations like Proctor & Gamble, General Mills, Kraft and Pepsico.  This morning, AMERIPEN released their report Analysis of Strategies and Financial Platforms to Increase the Recovery of Used Packaging.”

The central goals of the paper are “to identify strategies and financing mechanisms used across the globe that are the most effective and efficient in recovering packaging waste and addressing financing challenges of collection, sorting, and transportation.”  The report walks through an analysis of a series of seven strategies to increase recovery of packaging.  In most cases, the analysis is good, highlighting the strengths and challenges of each approach.  In some cases as in the example of landfill surcharges, the report also provides commentary on the political feasibility of a given strategy.  In others, the analysis falls short, such as the section parroting flawed beverage-industry talking points against container deposits.  

Five of the strategies are generally delivered or mandated by government, usually local government:  Disposal Bans, Mandatory Recycling, Pay As You Throw (unit-based pricing), Advance Recycling/Disposal Fees, and Landfill Surcharges.  The other two strategies require industry to play a leading role:  Extended Producer Responsibility and Container Deposits (a form of EPR if industry manages the program). 

Not surprisingly, in the conclusion on pages 33-34, the report recommends that policy makers pursue policies implemented by local government at taxpayer expense: Pay-As-You-Throw, mandatory recycling requirements and disposal bans on recyclable packaging.  These policies require no investment by any of AMERIPEN’s member companies.  Regardless of efficacy, they summarily reject policies like extended producer responsibility (including container deposits), which require financial and/or management commitments from the companies that make up AMERIPEN’s board.

This is not to say that PAYT, recycling requirements and disposal bans aren’t good policy.  These are mostly proven strategies among a suite of necessary and useful policies to increase recycling; and they deserve support.  But without industry-financing, the costs for improving packaging recycling falls squarely on taxpayers, ratepayers and local governments, which in today’s climate means these ideas are unlikely to be pursued at a scale necessary to address the problem of widespread packaging waste.  

Unfortunately, the AMERIPEN report ultimately falls short on its promise of addressing the challenge of “balancing the need for sustainable funding of packaging waste recovery with the need to improve the efficiency of the system in order to increase material recovery.”  It completely passes the buck on industry responsibility for any financing or administration of recycling programs to meet the two challenges of sustainable financing and greater system efficiency, both of which are solved by extended producer responsibility.  

The irony is that nearly all of the AMERIPEN companies already participate in EPR-packaging systems throughout Europe, and will soon do the same for every province in Canada.  The European EPR programs are even praised by the same type of trade association representing the same companies in the EU.  

Our advice to AMERIPEN is the same that we gave to the Grocery Manufacturers Association after they released their anti-EPR report last year. Rather than fighting what its members already do in 47 other countries, AMERIPEN companies could work to create superior producer-led EPR systems in the U.S., develop predictable supplies of raw materials, and earn positive public recognition from assuming this level of corporate social responsibility.   
That wouldn’t be passing the buck.  It would be rising to the challenge.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Does it matter how we pay for recycling?

By David Stitzhal

David is a founding board member of Product Policy Institute and President of Full Circle Environmental, Inc.

Does it matter whether we pay for recycling through rates and taxes versus paying as part of the cost of the product?

As a society we define which goods and services we pay for through taxes, utility rates and service fees, and which we pay for through private transactions.  These allocation decisions have been made over time, and are not necessarily revisited often. 

Taxes are often used to pay for so-called common benefits.  We pay, for example, for pothole repair through taxes, rather than as individuals each time we come to a hole in the road.  Thus a broad public benefit is paid for through a broad financing mechanism. 

Conversely, we purchase food at stores using our personal earnings, rather than standing in line for allotments of bread and sugar issued by a central government.   The quantity of food we want, as well as the level of quality, must be paid for by individuals as they are able. 

We are accustomed to paying for garbage and recycling services broadly -- through government-mediated taxes, rates and fees (remitted to local government or private vendors). This wasn’t always the case.  Government first got involved in sanitation a century ago to protect public health.  At that time the waste stream was much simpler and could be largely composted or repurposed.  But as the waste stream has grown in complexity, toxicity and non-recyclability – attributes that are predominantly under the control of product designers and manufacturers – local government still finds itself responsible for financing disposal and recycling efforts. 

The current system locks in an inherent inequity in which people who buy selectively and therefore dispose of fewer and less toxic products still must pay into a system that inexorably subsidizes those individuals who purchase and dispose of comparatively more, and more toxic, products. 

A greater inequity however lies in the fact that because downstream disposal costs are paid for by different parties than the upstream producers who design, market and profit from the product, the producers therefore have no bottom-line, market-driven, cost-of-business incentive to take into account the disposal and toxicity impacts of their product and packaging -- much less a financial incentive to address these impacts through product re-design.
In other words, disposal costs and toxicity impacts of any given product are paid for outside the producer-consumer relationship; they are paid for broadly by ratepayers and taxpayers.  Thus Manufacturer A can over-package a toxic widget, and Manufacturer B can minimally package a less toxic, recyclable version of the same widget, yet neither one has to factor in the multiple costs of disposal, recycling or impacts from toxicity.  This free ride to the dump – free for producers, not society -- inherently subsidizes inefficiency in products and their packaging, and allows blindness to toxicity.  From a market perspective, this approach provides little incentive for producers to consider the end-of-life costs of their products and packaging. 

When we determine who should pay for something, we must ask, To whom does the good accrue?  Taxes work well when we have a broad public good, with undifferentiated benefits.  (We all benefit from a tax-funded fire department, even if our own house doesn’t ever catch fire.)  However, those narrow costs which are simply part of creating a product for sale – buying raw materials, hiring employees, running equipment, and arranging for a product’s end-of-life-management – should travel with the product.  We should not isolate one cost of doing business – in this case a product’s disposal impacts – and cover those costs through the blunt instrument of public taxation and rate setting. 

David Stitzhal can be emailed at stitzhal at