Tuesday, December 14, 2010

EPR as a Consideration in Holiday Shopping

By Stephanie Welsh, PPI's social media maven, mom of 3, and crazed holiday shopper

As holiday shoppers rush to and fro, a growing number of people are adding a new criteria to their decision-making when they make purchases.  Are people thinking about Extended Producer Responsibility when they make a purchase?  Not in such a formal way, but in many other smaller ways that add up.
Let's face it, it's a hectic time of year and the added pressure of figuring out how to make environmentally educated and responsible purchases can make a person slightly crazy.  But consider this, we know that consumers wield considerable power with their checkbooks and credit cards.  This is an incredible time of year to exercise that power.
Here are a few things we're doing to get into the "green" spirit this season:
  • Waterfalling old electronics to kids rather than buying new.
  • Reading the recycling report card to figure out which manufacturers get the good grades before buying any electronics.
  • Taking re-usable shopping bags to the mall as well as the grocery store.
  • Considering packaging when making a purchase (all else being equal, which product has less packaging or packaging that can be recycled?).

Read through some of the information below and see if you can make a small change, or a big one, this buying season that will help send the message of EPR.

New electronics are hot sellers around the holidays, but commentary like that in The Story of Electronics by Annie Leonard is making people think about whether they actually need that next gadget right now.

Bloggers are talking about e-waste and where the electronics we dispose of really end up.

The Electronics TakeBack Coalition publishes a report card(http://www.electronicstakeback.com/hold-manufacturers-accountable/recycling-report-card/) for electronics manufacturers so consumers can see which companies are working on responsible recycling.

Beth Terry, creator of Fake Plastic Fish, blogs about reducing plastic from our lives and works on campaigns to get companies to take back their products at the end of life.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Musings on Ontario's WEEE program - is it the worst and costliest?


The following blog was written by Guy Crittenden for Solid Waste & Recycling Magazine.  His commentary brings some interesting truths about Ontario's WEEE (Waste Electronics & Electrical Equipment) program to light.  Read on:
Ontario WEEE program world's costliest and worst?
I’m a great fan of the concept of extended producer responsibility (EPR), in which (as anyone who reads Solid Waste & Recycling regularly knows) brand owners and other producers pay for the end-of-life management of products and packaging (rather than municipal ratepayers). Among the many potential virtues of EPR is that the polluter pays principle eliminates municipal subsidies and allocates costs where they belong -- with the people who can change the products -- and offers an economic incentive for waste minimization and design for environment (DfE) changes.
That being said, I’m not much of a fan of so-called “product stewardship” in the sense that, unlike EPR (with which it's often confused), many of the “first generation” product stewardship programs have simply seen an advance recycling fee stuck on various products (e.g., tires, motor oil, etc.) which are then managed by a collective. While product stewardship does have the benefit of getting some materials out of the municipal waste stream, the programs so far have been plagued with problems, including lack of accountability (in some cases), poor program performance (without repercussions), and high costs. Fact is, many of the programs lack things we take for granted as beneficial in the marketplace such as competition, which lowers costs and improves services over time. For some strange reason the very companies that swear by free markets for the products they sell at the retail level suddenly become Castro-style socialists when it comes to end-of-life management of discards, settling for production quotas and service monopolies that time and again have led to underperformance everywhere else they've been imposed.
There is perhaps no better example of the shortcomings of product stewardship than Ontario’s program for waste electronics and electrical equipment (WEEE), which has been expanded in a second phase to collect and supposedly divert a wide range of materials from disposal, including everything from cell phones to old TVs. The program sounds fine in theory and has given more than one environment minister a nice photo op and chance to say they’re “doing something for the environment.” However, when the program was being designed and discussed, our magazine and its contributing editors argued vociferously that the program would potentially become an enormous boondoggle for consumers, conceived as it was with the usual industry collective managing the materials in a quota system.
The program was introduced anyway, over our objections, so we waited to see. Now the results are coming in, and it ain’t a pretty picture. Turns out that Ontario’s WEEE program is not diverting anything like the amount of material it was supposed to. Worse, consumers are being dinged a lot of money at the cash register in the form of eco fees on things like new flat screen TVs, supposedly to pay for lots of waste diversion of old electronic equipment. Sadly, consumers aren’t getting value for money, by any yardstick. The program taking in large amounts of money and diverting very little waste. It appears that Ontario residents are paying for the world's most expensive, least effective product stewardship program for electronic waste.
Here are some quick Ontario WEEE facts that pretty much speak for themselves. The situation makes the recent debacle over household hazardous and special waste eco fees look like a well-thought out plan:
1. Ontario Electronics Stewardship (OES) – the collective that administers the program -- had budgeted to collect $74.4 million (See program plan at Page 109) for its first year of operation and collected well over $60 million (they claim reduced revenue due to the economic downturn);
2. In the first full year of operation OES recovered 17,000 metric tonnes of e-waste (Source: Waste Diversion Ontario [WDO] staff report); so
3. The OES program costs anywhere from $3,500 to $4,400 per tonne – by far the costliest e-waste program in the world;
4. Therefore, with Ontario consumers having paid over $60 million in electronic eco-fees the program has recovered 44% of the diversion target that it set for itself and only 18% of what is available in Ontario annually (96,841 tonnes as per the plan at page 27). The remaining 82% is headed where? South East Asia?

So, not only is it the most expensive per tonne; it’s also the world’s most ineffective. To further make the point,
5. Alberta recovers 4.74/kg of e-waste per capita at a cost of $1,900/tonne while Ontario recovers 1.42 kg/per capita. And even Alberta's program is no great shakes. As an absolute comparator Switzerland recovers about the same amount per capita as Alberta does at about half the cost.
6. Waste Diversion Ontario and Ontario Electronic Stewardship have not published a report on the performance of the Ontario WEEE program contrary to the Waste Diversion Act 2002 S 33. (1) “Each industry funding organization that is designated by the regulations as the industry funding organization for a waste diversion program shall, not later than April 1 in each year (a) prepare a report in accordance with this section on its activities during the previous year; and (b) provide a copy of the report to Waste Diversion Ontario and make the report available to the public.”

Maybe they're just really busy folks, but it’s pretty easy to imagine why no one wants to publish the results: the program is failing and is something of an embarrassment. One could cut the program operators some slack with the excuse that “it’s new” and time is needed to improve performance. That’s rubbish! The program is fatally flawed by its very design. Private electronics recyclers, including some of the leading companies in the world, have been suggesting program changes repeatedly – changes that would do away with the quotas and create incentives for competition and investment in this industry, with their suggestions falling on deaf ears.
It’s time for the environment ministry to take action, or for voters to voice this displeasure in next year’s provincial election.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Is the goal of EPR landfill diversion or sustainable resource use?



Increased interest in Extended Product Responsibility, aka Product Stewardship, in the US is bringing into focus very different ideas on what the goal should be.  The following comments by Heidi Sanborn, relayed with permission, highlight different perspectives pertaining to carpet.  But the same could be said for packaging, where there is a renewed focus on burning.  Heidi's comments are in response to an assertion that the "entire concept" of the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) goal is landfill diversion.


Heidi Sanborn, Executive Director
California Product Stewardship Council:  
"I must say I was not at all aware that CARE’s goals are about “landfill diversion”.  In California, that has never been the goal since AB 939 passed in 1989 when we developed our waste hierarchy of source reduction first, recycling and composting second, and landfilling/incineration last – that hierarchy was developed with a goal of highest and best use of resources.  I certainly hope if that is not the current goal of CARE, that the mission and vision be revisited to make it a goal to best manage resources, not just divert from landfills.

I am just returning from almost 3 weeks in Switzerland, France and Belgium and I met with many professional stewardship organizations for everything from beverage containers to batteries and electronics.  I attended and presented at two conferences:  an international EPR conference on packaging and one European conference on WEEE (electronics). I heard speakers who literally wrote the book on Cradle-to-Cradle and an EU Commissioner of the environment.   Without a doubt, the rest of the world is focused on running towards the green economy based on efficient use of resources to be “sustainable”.  I certainly hope the carpet industry will be part of bringing the US into the green economy by focusing on efficient and sustainable use of resources.  “Landfill diversion” is short- sighted in that if we must get oil, a non-renewable resource, to make the carpet and ‘divert” it from landfill by burning it for energy, we have to get more non-renewable oil to burn hence, it is not sustainable.    

As Professor Michael Braungart says, that is just less bad, not doing good.  His colleague Bill McDonough wrote a letter of support to get the carpet bill passed.  I hope we don’t let them down by ignoring the design changes that need to be made to carpet to make it a sustainable product."



Pic: stockXCHNG, photo by Kriss Szkurlatowski

Monday, September 27, 2010

WASTE: Climate Change, Peak Oil, and the End of Waste!

Bill Sheehan, Executive Director
Product Policy Institute

I'm happy to announce Product Policy Institute's inclusion in the forthcoming book, The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century's Sustainability Crises.  Our chapter, "Climate Change, Peak Oil & the End of Waste" examines the intersection of waste policy, consumption and climate change, and describes a materials management approach that can contribute to building sustainable, resilient communities.

As a preview of the book, a PDF of our contribution is available here: http://www.postcarbon.org/report/

Along with PPI's chapter, The Post Carbon Reader explores key drivers shaping the 21st century, from renewable energy and urban agriculture to social justice and systems resilience.  The book features a number of important thinkers and activists, most of whom are my peers at the Post Carbon Institute: Bill McKibben, Wes Jackson, Sandra Postel, Richard Heinberg, David Orr, Stephanie Mills, Michael Shuman, Erika Allen and Richard Douthwaite, among others.

We're excited about the Reader as it showcases many aspects and challenges of the work we do, tying it to the knowledge and efforts of our colleagues at Post Carbon Institute, an international think tank dedicated to the transition to a more resilient, equitable and sustainable world.

The Post Carbon Reader will be available on October 10, 2010 from Watershed Media.

I hope you enjoy what we've written and find it engaging enough to share with your friends and colleagues.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Refillable Beverage Containers-The Return of a Good Idea?

Do you recall the glass bottles from decades past?  Americans used to drink their soda from glass bottles that are collector's items today.  But more importantly, do you remember how those glass bottles were used?  The bottles were returned to retailers and then refilled before they were sold again!  Could it be that we had a very efficient recycling system to start with, and then we lost it?

Here's a glimpse of a blog post from "Zero Waste Europe" about this very idea:
"Not many decades ago beverages were generally bottled in refillable containers with deposits.  Deposits are a sum of money we give as a security for an item acquired for temporary use, once we give back the item we get back the money.  In the last decades and years, this has changed; the trend goes towards throw-away one-way packaging.  This is a very inefficient way of using resources."

Read the rest of the blog and see the results they are getting in Europe with beverage container deposits:
http://www.zerowasteeurope.eu/beverage-packaging-and-zero-waste/

PIC:  stock.XCHNG

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Zero-Waste Future: Pipe Dream or Reality?

By guest blogger:
Matt Prindiville, Clean Product Project Director, Natural Resources Council of Maine

What would you say if I told you that consumer product manufacturers are teaming up with local solid waste officials to eliminate the concept of "trash" altogether?  Does that sound like an eco-pipe dream?

Well, it's not.  Right here in Maine, electronics manufacturers have already set up and are financing collection and recycling programs for unwanted television sets, computers, monitors, cell phones, mercury containing light bulbs and more.

The goal of these programs is to divert these products from landfills and incinerators and get them into recycling operations where they can be broken down and turned into new products.  While, Maine's been on the cutting edge of this policy approach known as product stewardship (or extended producer responsibility), we're well behind places like the European Union and Canada, which are implementing stewardship plans to get pretty much everything you can think of out of the waste stream and into recycling operations.

And, here's the kicker - it's all done by private companies and the costs are incorporated into the price of the product, instead of left to taxpayers and local governments to figure out what to do with all the unwanted stuff.

Pretty soon, we won't be talking about "solid waste" policy anymore.  We'll be talking about "sustainable materials" policy, and that, my friends, is a heck of a lot more exciting and truly has the potential to revolutionize the way we manufacture, use and dispose of consumer products.  Rather than designing products for disposal, manufacturers will now have the incentives to design their products - and packaging - for their next uses, and will create the systems to capture those unwanted products and turn them into something new and valuable."

You can read more of the Natural Resources Council of Maine Blog at http://blog.nrcm.org/

PIC: stock.xchng

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

West Coast Climate Forum Looking For Feedback


The West Coast Climate Forum wants feedback on the “Beta version” of a Climate Change Toolkit.  The West Coast Climate Forum was convened by US EPA Regions 9 and 10 and comprised mostly of state and local government people from California, Oregon and Washington states. Product Policy Institute was also part of the team.

Shannon Davis, the West Coast Forum co-lead, is soliciting input on the Climate Change Toolkit, see below for what she's interested in, then check out the Toolkit and send comments to davis.shannon@epa.gov by October 15th.

Materials Management Approaches for State and Local Climate Protection.  
Shannon  Davis, U.S. EPA Region IX (WST-1)

A small group has been working very hard over the past year to develop this resource using a wiki format.  Now we need your help.  Please take a few minutes to click on the wiki link - http://captoolkit.wikispaces.com/  - and review this climate toolkit.  As you read through it, here some questions to keep in mind: 
- How can we improve content of this toolkit? 
- Do you have Climate Protection Actions to suggest that are not included in this toolkit? 
- Are there additional measurement tools that should be added? 
- What elements of this toolkit are most helpful? - Other web resources to recommend? 
- Can you recommend other Climate Action Plan best practices or good examples? 
- Do you have suggestions for the format? - Do you have other feedback on this toolkit? 

You should find this toolkit ready to use, and we hope you will find it to be a valuable resource.  We will be continuing to make improvements to it, with a particular focus on adding to the section named 
Climate Protection Actions .

To date, the Workgroup has focused primarily on content and not on design.  After this round of review, we will turn our attention to layout and design for a final web based tool.

Please send your comments to davis.shannon@epa.gov by Friday, October 15, 2010 or you can use the "we want to hear from you" link in the wiki.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Local government in Rhode Island votes for EPR Framework

Once again, we see local governments taking the initiative and pushing EPR to the next level!
Rhode Island already has three laws addressing Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for products that create hazardous waste.  But what Rhode Island doesn't have is a "framework EPR approach".  A framework approach is meant to take the concept of EPR and expand it beyond laws that address single products into a whole variety of products and packaging.  Now the Narrangansett Town Council has passed a resolution to get the conversation about EPR framework for Rhode Island on the state's agenda.

Read the press release below from Jonathon Berard at Clean Water Action:


NARRAGANSETT TOWN COUNCIL APPROVES RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF PRODUCER RESPONSIBILITY
NARRAGANSETT, Sept 8, 2010 – Last night, the Narragansett Town Council voted unanimously to pass a resolution in support of a framework extended producer responsibility approach to waste management for the State of Rhode Island. Councilwoman Susan Cicilline-Buonanno introduced the resolution.
Producer responsibility redefines the way municipal waste is managed. Traditionally, the cost of waste management is borne solely by municipalities, who pass those costs down to residents in the form of taxes. In contrast, producer responsibility places the primary obligation and control of product end-of-life management with the producer, who builds those costs into the price of the product. This approach results in a significant decrease in costs for cities and towns and ensures that convenient and efficient recycling and disposal services are available to all. Beyond that, producer responsibility encourages product design innovation and foments small business growth in the recycling sector, which results in the creation of green jobs.
Rhode Island currently has three such laws on the books. The collection of mercury auto switches, electronic waste, and mercury thermostats are managed through programs that are created and funded by manufacturers. These three pieces of legislation define producer responsibility policies for specific item, but crafting laws in this fashion is time consuming and legislatively inefficient. Framework legislation would create a means to identify products and create subsequent management policies in a much more timely and efficient fashion.
“A framework approach takes what we have learned through the management of individual products and applies it to a wide range of goods,” said John Berard, campaign organizer for Clean Water Action. “It is the next step in the natural progression of producer responsibility policies.”
Framework approaches to product stewardship have been successful elsewhere, particularly in Canada. Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia have all enacted successful framework laws for managing waste, and the Canadian government is currently exploring the feasibility of a national framework policy. Earlier this year, Maine became the first state in the United States to pass framework producer responsibility legislation, and similar legislation has been introduced in five other states: California, Minnesota, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.
“It is the towns and cities of this state who pay for the old, inefficient system of waste management,” continued Berard, “so it is appropriate that they are the ones who are urging the General Assembly into action. We praise the Town of Narragansett for their proactivity in this matter.” 
Johnathan Berard,
Campaign Organizer
Clean Water Action

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

New conclusions about how to be green?

If you read the title "Everything You Know About Going Green Is Wrong", would it make you hesitate a bit before clicking?   It caused this reader to pause for a moment.  Why, you ask?  Because I like to think that I'm making good, responsible, environmental-friendly choices!  Do I really want to read something that's about to turn that all upside down?  Not really, but I braved it anyway.  And to my surprise, it wasn't a commentary on how everything we're currently doing is wrong, it's more about how we're focusing on actions that have a small effect, not the actions with the largest effect.  


One of the insights from the blog:  "As a nation, the products we buy, and the plastic and paper those products are packaged in, account for 44% of our greenhouse gas emissions -- dwarfing all other sources of pollution. It's all about stuff. Good stuff, bad stuff, fuel-efficient stuff, organic stuff: The problem is too much stuff."


This insight succinctly highlights why PPI focuses its work where it does.  PPI's goals are to help local governments across the nation take action by getting producers to share in the responsibility of waste management, rather than producing products and expecting governments to find a way to dispose of all the products and packaging.
Read the entire blog entry "Everything You Know About Going Green Is Wrong" here: 
http://www.ill-conditioned.com/2010/08/everything-you-know-about-going-green.html


Pic: stock.XCHNG

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Defending EPR in Ontario

While laying out why Ontario should keep its Hazardous Household Waste Program, David Suzuki says "Call it Extended Producer Responsibility, call it Eco Fees, call it what you'd like, but the bottom line is that hazardous substance manufacturers understand one thing best:  if it costs them to pollute they're going to pollute less -- often a lot less.
That's the fundamental principle underlying Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policies such as the government of Ontario's Household Hazardous Waste Program -- a program the official opposition has inexplicably threatened to tear down if it gets the opportunity."  His comments were published in The Ottwawa Citizen.  Read his entire argument here:  http://www.ottawacitizen.com/technology/dump+this+program/3361012/story.html#ixzz0vnP20VxX

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

California reaches 100 local resolutions seeking EPR

The movement is nationwide, in red states and blue states, on both coasts and in the heartland. Local governments are leading the charge by adopting resolutions calling for state policies for extended producer responsibility (EPR), otherwise known as product stewardship.  In California, the City of Roseville became the 100th local government, agency or association to adopt a local EPR resolution. 

Local resolutions have been adopted in five other states around the country, often by members of state Product Stewardship Councils: New York (7 resolutions), Texas (4), Minnesota (6), Massachusetts (4), and Rhode Island (1).  The resolutions call for extending producers’ responsibility for product waste beyond the sale to ensure products and packaging are properly reduced, reused and recycled.  These resolutions also call for state legislatures to pass legislation that shifts financial responsibility for recycling product waste to producers and consumers, rather than costs falling solely on local governments via taxpayers and garbage ratepayers.


Pic: stock.XCHNG, courtesy of aschaeffer

Friday, July 23, 2010

More recycling is good, but what is better?

People often feel like product stewardship makes sense but aren't sure how to make the concept into reality.  One idea that is frequently hit upon as a first step is expanding a community's recycling program.  But is this the best path to product stewardship?  Here are some thoughts from Bill Sheehan, Director of Product Policy Institute:

More recycling is good, but it matters who does it and who pays for it.  Building up municipal infrastructure (“capital investments for single stream recycling") is welfare for waste and ultimately encourages the continued production of throwaway products and packaging. And single stream is the worst system for transitioning to EPR.  If individual producers were responsible for getting their stuff back when consumers are done with it, they would never use single stream.  Imagine if everything at Home Depot were all jumbled and mixed together before you bought it!  Producers can get an amazing array of stuff into stores; they can use the same ingenuity (called reverse logistics) to get it back.

 I know this is a radical paradigm shift, but it is the truth.  The difficulty of trying to convince people bought into the municipal responsibility model (that’s most of us) is why I spend significant time in states where people get this shift.  Below is a link to an article by a local government person from TexasKim Mote, Solid Waste Manager for Fort Worth.  He has seen the light and is now organizing local governments in Texas through the Texas Product Stewardship Council.  Read his position: http://www.nctcog.org/envir/features/2008/dec/regvoice.asp

Pic: stock.XCHNG

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Story of Cosmetics

Annie Leonard, a Berkeley activist who we have highlighted for her ability to get the word out to consumers about complicated environmental issues, has released a new video.  "The Story of Cosmetics" is a 7 minute video  intended to show people that many cosmetics ingredients are unsustainable toxic petrochemicals, and that the system of regulating chemicals in personal care products is, like other chemical policies in the US, badly broken. They outline solutions and directly link to online actions.  Watch the video now at: www.storyofstuff.org/cosmetics.


Pic: stock.XCHNG

Monday, July 19, 2010

CAUTION: EPR Eco-fees become targets of anti-tax fever

As the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) takes hold, the serious discussion of  how recycling is paid for enters the discussion with equal vigor.  Two areas active in EPR, Ontario and California, are in the throes of these discussions now.


This article from the Toronto Star describes a fire storm over EPR eco-fees in Ontario: Eco-fee agency says levies could be buried in price

In California, a proposed ballot measure for November 2010 is designed to shift the burden of paying for the cost of pollution from the companies that pollute to ordinary taxpayers.  This “
Polluter Protection Initiative” is funded entirely by corporations and organizations that do not want to pay for the harm they cause.  “Oil companies Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and Connoco Philips; alcohol companies such as Anheuser-Busch, and MillerCoors; and the tobacco company Phillip Morris (through a half-million dollar contribution to the California Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee) have already raised over two million dollars to qualify for the ballot.”  Read more:  Polluter FAQ v2.doc

For Product Policy Institute’s perspective on eco-fees, read our discussion document: To Fee or Not to Fee: That is the Question.  Where do you weigh in?  



Picture: Toronto Star - Eco-fee agency says levies could be buried in price

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Costs for Added Service: "Eco-fees"


Guest column by Helen Spiegelman

In Canada, producers are beginning to add recycling costs ("eco-fees") onto the prices of their products. These fees are coming under a lot of fire. Environmentalists who support producer responsibility are concerned that corporations are slapping these "fees" on without adequate government oversight. The general public in Canada sees the fees as a government tax -- coming hard on the heels of a "harmonized sales tax" (HST) that adds cost to some consumer goods. It is important to help the public understand the underlying facts so they can hold both corporations and the government accountable.

First, EPR "eco-fees" are not a tax but a price increase reflecting an added service being provided by producers to consumers. It is a cost, like the other costs that are incurred in producing and marketing products, that has to be factored in when the producer sets the price of the product. Pricing is flexible, of course: producers can choose to absorb some costs temporarily, but ultimately all costs have to be covered or the producer goes out of business.

Where EPR gets into trouble at this stage of its evolution is that government has allowed all producers of a given product (e.g. electronics) to use the same company to manage their recycling function, creating a monopolistic/monopsonistic situation. For this reason, really robust government oversight is needed, such as the delegated administrative organization in Alberta, to make sure that the consortia don't abuse the consumers. But there will be a natural tendency for producers to bolt from consortia when they can come up with a lower cost way of providing the same services. This is why good EPR legislation allows producers to manage their own recycling functions or form new consortia.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Talking the Talk - What Does It Really Accomplish?

By Stephanie Welsh, PPI Social Media Consultant
It's hard to think of an industry that doesn't have its own jargon and acronyms and slang.  When you join a new industry, it feels like people are speaking a different language, but gradually you start to clue in  and even throw in a few acronyms and try out a piece of jargon once in a while.  Over time,  it becomes common place to use the jargon and acronyms.  In fact, it makes you feel like you fit in, like you're part of an exclusive club.
The only time you think twice about the way you speak about your job, your passion, your industry, is when you're at a party or the dinner table and you look around to see that everyone is listening but their expressions clearly say "what are you talking about?"  That's when you realize you have to find a way to talk to people outside your industry or you'll be talking to yourself.

Annie Leonard, a Berkeley activist focused on the environment, is doing an incredible job speaking to people outside the environmental sector.  She's no longer using language that restricts her to the activist or environmentalist "clubs", she's talking to EVERYBODY.   And she's doing it in a way that is catching people's attention.  Her web video, "The Story of Stuff" has been viewed by more than 12 million people.  You can read more about Annie Leonard in the LA Times:  http://www.latimes.com/news/science/environment/la-me-story-of-stuff-20100713,0,2775603,full.story

Here at Product Policy Institute, we work on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), also known as Product Stewardship.  Whether you use the full words or the acronym, it's hard for people to understand exactly what it means.  There are moments when it's hard to describe what Extended Producer Responsibility is without getting into jargon and geek-speak.  
Have you ever tried to explain EPR to someone who knew nothing about it?  How did you do it?  What words seemed to make your point?  Did you use an analogy?  Did you see a spark of understanding?
We'd love to hear from you about how YOU speak about EPR and Product Stewardship.  Comment below and tell us your EPR explanation stories.  Not only are we listening to what Annie Leonard has to say, but we're paying close attention to how she says it and how effective she is.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

PPI recommendations catch Seattle's attention in quest for carbon neutral city

Seattle is attempting to become the first carbon neutral US city.  That sounds daunting enough, but Seattle's City Council has realized they must consider carbon emissions AND embedded carbon in creating their carbon neutral policies.  Richard Conlin, president of Seattle's City Council, has looked for ideas to create an authentic carbon neutral policy.  He has found PPI & EPA's call for a "life-cycle analysis of products that includes green degisn, waste prevention, and recycling" to be the kind of robust recommendation they need.  You can read more from Richard Conlin in this article from "Yes" magazine: www.yesmagazine.org/blogs/richard-conlin/but-what-about-embedded-carbon

Monday, July 5, 2010

Ontario Postpones Transition to Full EPR

“Ontario has … postponed one of the most important pieces of constructive environmental legislation in a generation. … Product stewardship and extended producer responsibility (EPR) are sweeping across the continent and Europe. Ontario has started to position itself as a leader in this area, and was about to introduce legislation that would have made it the talked-about role model across Canada and the United States. The province was poised to steal the crown from places like British Columbia…”

- Solid Waste & Recycling magazine.
Read the entire Editor's Blog here: http://blogsw.solidwastemag.com/2010/06/mcguinty_liberals_fumble_major.html 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Swimming Upstream: Product Stewardship and the Promise of Green Design

One of the major rationales for extended producer responsibility policy approach is the promise of promise of influencing product and packaging design. David Stitzhal (PPI Vice President and principal of Full Circle Consulting) has produced an excellent white paper for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s Product Stewardship Stakeholder Group.

Here’s a summary of Swimming Upstream: Product Stewardship and the Promise of Green Design

Product‐oriented policies reflect an awareness of – and an attempt to address – the impacts products have at end of life, as well as throughout the product’s life‐cycle. Ideally, such product stewardship policies establish built‐in mechanisms and incentives that minimize environmental impact at time of disposal, as well as during design, production, transport and other life‐cycle stages. This is often achieved by building the costs of such impacts into the consumer‐manufacturer transaction, rather than covering such costs through solid waste rates and taxes.
Many mechanisms exist and are emerging that establish level regulatory playing fields, thus allowing industry to compete on improving their environmental footprint, rather than simply cost and performance. These mechanisms rely on different engines, ranging from leveraging purchasing power (EPEAT, Top Runner) to restricting materials (RoHS, food service packaging), to requiring manufacturer take-back (Paint, EWaste). These approaches provide lessons and experience from which Oregon can draw when exploring continued product‐oriented policies as a tool for decreasing waste and toxicity in the State. Several lessons and policy recommendations are suggested.


Links to the Oregon DEQ site -- and to several other important papers on the subject -- are posted at http://www.productpolicy.org/content/green-design

Graphic from libkcad.ferris.edu/images/green.jpg

Thursday, June 17, 2010

New blog from the front lines of Product Stewardship in Maine


When it comes to EPR, the state of Maine has bragging rights for passing the first extended producer responsibility "framework" legislation in the United States.  Now that bill’s author, Maine Rep. Melissa Walsh Innes (D-Yarmouth), has started her own blog to share her contemplations about product stewardship.   http://confessionsofaproductstewardshipgeek.blogspot.com/

Monday, June 14, 2010

U.S. Conference of Mayors Adopts Producer Responsibility Resolution


“Hat Trick” of National Associations of Elected Officials 

The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) joined the National League of Cities and National Association of Counties in adopting a resolution calling for state and federal producer responsibility legislation that shifts the costs of managing problematic product and packaging waste away from taxpayers and local governments to producers and the consumers of their products.  

The USCM resolution, adopted at their annual meeting in Oklahoma City on June 14th, is based on a model developed by the Product Policy Institute (PPI) that has been adopted by 96 local jurisdictions and local government associations in California since 2006, as well as by jurisdictions in New York, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Texas. 

“Product Policy Institute has been working with governments for seven years to find solutions to the mounting burden of product and packaging waste facing communities,” said Product Policy Institute Executive Director Bill Sheehan. “Today the U.S. Conference of Mayors planted their flag in the waste pile and said, “no more.”  They asked product manufacturers to take primary responsibility for their toxic and non-recyclable products.  We’re proud of their leadership on this issue.”

USCM is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more, promoting effective national urban/suburban policy.  The USCM resolution supports state and federal producer responsibility legislation that levels the playing field for corporations that take “cradle-to-cradle” responsibility for their products and packaging, and urges Congress support the ability of state governments to establish producer responsibility legislation.

The USCM resolution lead sponsor was Mayor Christopher Cabaldon of West Sacramento, California - whose city adopted a similar resolution in 2009.  The list of signers included five U.S. states:
·      The Honorable Christopher Cabaldon, Mayor of West Sacramento, California
·      The Honorable Mike McGinn, Mayor of Seattle, Washington
·      The Honorable David Maher, Mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts
·      The Honorable Patrick Hayes, Mayor of North Little Rock, Arkansas
·      The Honorable Mark Burroughs, Mayor of Denton, Texas
·      The Honorable Kevin Johnson, Mayor of Sacramento, California

“Local governments are in serious financial trouble and can better use resources currently going to manage waste products like batteries, needles and fluorescent lamps to fund police, fire and basic public health services,” said Mayor Cabaldon.  “We need manufacturers to take responsibility for what they make, not leave it to the taxpayers and ratepayers to clean-up the mess at very high costs.

National associations of elected officials representing cities and counties have already adopted producer responsibility resolutions. The National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties both adopted resolutions last year.

The resolutions are part of a movement that calls for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), also known as Product Stewardship.  EPR is a policy approach common in Europe, Japan, Canada and other industrialized nations but relatively new to the United States.  In the US, 22 states now have laws for discarded electronic products that require producers to finance or manage collection and provide responsible recycling.

“We cannot continue to expect government and taxpayers to design, fund and manage every product sold, said Heidi Sanborn, Executive Director of the California Product Stewardship Council.  “Taxpayers and garbage ratepayers have hit their limit and so have our landfills! Requiring producers of problem products like batteries and fluorescent lamps pay for their recovery, utilizes free-market competitive forces to drive down recycling costs and creates jobs in the private sector, not in the public sector.”

Product Policy Institute has been leading the producer responsibility movement by conducting research and education on product stewardship, and by helping local and state government officials and other stakeholders like national associations work collaboratively towards this policy approach.  PPI helped local governments organize Product Stewardship Councils in California, Texas, New York, Massachusetts and Vermont; the Councils serve as hubs that bring together all stakeholders to develop sustainable solutions based on the framework principles.

More information:

·      Link to USCM resolution on Product Policy Institute’s producer responsibility resolutions web page:  http://www.productpolicy.org/content/local-epr-resolutions

·      Link to extended producer responsibility background:  http://www.productpolicy.org/content/about-epr

·      Link to Joint Framework Principles for Product Stewardship Policy   http://www.productpolicy.org/content/framework-principles

·      Link to US Conference of Mayors:  http://www.usmayors.org/



Tuesday, May 11, 2010

British Columbia E-Waste Program Success Story

Guest Column
By Helen Spiegelman
Zero Waste Vancouver Blog

In BC we take computers back to be recycled in a program that is authorized by Sony, Dell, HP, Apple, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

All those good names and logos are on the line that our e-waste won't end up in the place pictured here.

This is the place where our federal government sent its e-waste until good work by the Basel Action Network brought images like this home.
The timing couldn't have been better. British Columbia's landmark, earth-changing Industry Product Stewardship legislation was shining the spotlight on major brand-owners, calling them to the table, saying: "This is your problem. Solve it."

The brand-owners got it. Seeing the handwriting on the wall (that they were going to have to take back our e-waste and recycle it) they developed a sheet of Vendor Qualifications setting out for companies wanting to do business with them what could, and couldn't, happen to all those products bearing their brands that came back from consumers. What couldn't happen: prison labour or export.

The Electronic Stewardship Association of BC is the group of brand-owners that oversee what happens to ewaste in our province. They are asking their Advisory Committee (on which Zero Waste Vancouver has a seat) what should be their priorities for the coming year. They will be sitting down in the fall to develop an Annual Plan for 2011.

What should I tell them on your behalf?

For myself, I'm going to ask them what they are doing to avoid the public relations disaster being suffered this week by the Ontario government!

Pic: Huffington Post -- The World's Most Bizarre [and heartwrenching] Man-Made Disasters.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Letter to WalMart from Local Government: "Stuck With Your Products"

Guest Column

Letter to Kenneth Woodlin, Walmart
Kenneth.Woodlin@wal-mart.com

From: Rob Darcy
Santa Clara County(CA) Hazardous Program Manager

May 06, 2010
RE: Voluntary Fluorescent Lamp and/or Battery Recycling Partner

Ken,

With all due respect, I am very disappointed with your decision to refuse to participate in Santa Clara County's Retail Take-it back Network. Simply put, we need your help serving the public We have 66 voluntary locations accepting batteries and 35 accepting fluorescent lamps. Your competitors recognize the need to do their part to help consumers dispose of the very same products you sell and profit from at your stores. If you recall, we sat on the Lighting Task Force together to try and solve the problem facing local governments and our environment and were unable to agree on who should fund sustainable collection programs for end of life hazardous products. So for now, local governments/taxpayers are stuck.

I always find it surprising that businesses scream about regulations and how they should be allowed to thrive in a free market unfettered by laws and regulations. After all, the free market will fix all our problems and self-correct when needed. These same businesses are vigorously opposing current producer responsibility/product stewardship bills in the legislature today. They want free markets but are quite content to enjoy the waste subsidy that local governments provide when cleaning up after the hazardous products that are spewed into commerce. Local government should not be in the business of end of life management and instead it should be a function of the marketplace allowing business innovation to thrive and compete.

Wal-Mart has a market and moral responsibility to be part of the solution and participate in Santa Clara County's Retail Take-it-back Network. All your stores are already managing these very same waste streams as we speak. Your stores generate these wastes in the course of your every day business operations. Some of your stores, in fact, have serious problems with managing hazardous waste you generate throughout the state. Why not embrace the need to do it right, train your employees to be compliant and open it up to the public. This would be an impressive step toward sustainability and a PR success story.

I ask you to reconsider. After all, you are already managing these products in the every day course of your business. I would also like to point out that you are currently accepting batteries, fluorescent lamps or sharps at your stores in Paso Robles, Arroyo Grande and Roseville.

As you know, I am a proponent of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and I'm surprised that a company like Wal-Mart who claims to be progressing toward a sustainable business model isn't leading by example and assisting its customers with full life cycle product assistance. A battery or fluorescent lamp is in the same condition whether sitting on your shelves as a product for sale or sitting in the warehouse awaiting recycling. The only difference is utility.

The state of Maine recently passed an EPR Framework bill where the Chamber of Commerce supported the effort. Most businesses are lining up in support of EPR because they recognize that local governments cannot sustain an end of pipe approach to toxic product management. Most organizations understand that EPR shrinks the size of government and reduces taxes and rates. And let's not forget, that it expands those free markets.

I eagerly look forward to your response.

Rob D'Arcy

Hazardous Materials Program Manager
Hazardous Waste Recycling and Disposal Program
Department of Environmental Health
County of Santa Clara
1555 Berger Dr Suite 300
San Jose, CA 95112
Rob.Darcy@deh.sccgov.org

A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead