Monday, April 19, 2010

A Heads Up to CFOs About Making Recycling a Producer Responsibility

From CFO Magazine, April 19, 2010:

Just whose trash is it, anyway? In March, Maine became the latest state to mandate that certain products and forms of packaging remain the responsibility of those who make them, up to and including the time the products are thrown away.  ...

Advocates of EPR say that only by shifting these costs to manufacturers or importers will they have any incentive to design products that use less (and less toxic) materials and packaging. "One of the goals of extended producer responsibility is to drive green design," says Bill Sheehan, executive director with the Product Policy Institute. "Right now, we have a broken feedback loop where disposal isn't part of the product price."

Read article

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Consumers Are Not the Same as Taxpayers or Ratepayers

By Heidi Sanborn

I made a presentation to the California Manufacturers and Technology Association on April 8th. I was asked these questions: Why do producer responsibility proponents oppose having taxpayers/ratepayers pay for product waste? Aren’t they the same as consumers?

This was my answer:

A consumer buys something – they make a choice to buy a product based on prices and many other variables. Their choices provide economic feedback to the product designer and manufacturer. A taxpayer/ratepayer is a person paying taxes or garbage rates. They make no direct connection between the product disposal cost and the tax/rate. Additionally, rates and taxes are not economically connected to producers to close the economic feedback” loop that will drive green design.

The problem with externalizing End of Life (EOL) costs onto the taxpayer/ratepayer is that there is literally no consumer understanding of the full product costs so they cannot make a fully informed decision when purchasing a product. When EOL externalities are internalized into the product price, the consumer can make a fully informed consumer choice. This provides for personal responsibility – a 1:1 decision to cost implication versus an everyone-pays-for-everything socialism model that we have now.

If we want the free market to work, stop growing government, create private sector jobs, and allow the private sector to compete to drive recycling costs down, we can begin the transition away from externalizing product EOL costs onto the public sector.

I urge all of your members to watch the short video on the home page of the California Product Stewardship Council at It shows economist and Ventura County supervisor, Steve Bunnett, talking about this very issue.

Product stewardship moves us away from socialized product waste management to private sector free-market waste management. Product stewardship, when implemented properly, is the most conservative policy there is in waste management. It will ensure smaller government, properly operating free-market, and lower taxes/rates. Consumers who buy the biggest TV can pay for its EOL costs, not spread those costs across all their neighbors. The free-market can then work to drive down EOL management costs without command and control regulations.

Heidi Sanborn
Outreach Director, Product Policy Institute
Executive Director, California Product Stewardship Council

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sign-on Deadline April 14th: Add Products and Packaging to US Greenhouse Gas Inventory

It was pointed out to us that the sign-on deadline for the EPA letter is actually April 14th.  So there is still time.

This is a great opportunity for your voice to make a difference and get the climate impacts of products and packaging added to the U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory. 

Sign on by April 14 (noon Pacific) at
Organizational and individual signers  welcome.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Most Oregon greenhouse gas source not what you might think

An inventory conducted by Metro concludes that driving our cars and heating our homes aren't the region's biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

It's how we make, move and toss away all the stuff we consume.

Read the article in The Oregonian, April 2, 2010

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sign-on Letter to US EPA to Add Products and Packaging to US Greenhouse Gas Inventory

EPA has published a draft update of the US Greenhouse Gas Inventory (1990 – 2008).

This is a great opportunity for your voice to make a difference and get systems/ consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions added to the US Inventory! Please encourage US EPA to include products and packaging in the US Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

Sign on at

To view the draft Inventory, go to

April 8, 2010

Mr. Leif Hockstad
Environmental Protection Agency
Climate Change Division (6207J)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460

Dear Mr. Hockstad:

We appreciate the opportunity to comment on the Draft US Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

We believe that a major opportunity is overlooked in the Draft Inventory – an opportunity that EPA itself highlighted in the path-breaking report released in September 2009, Opportunities to Reduce Greenhouse gas Emissions through Materials and Land Management Practices. The report viewed greenhouse gas data from a systems-based perspective, which sums all the greenhouse gas impacts “embodied” in goods and materials – from resource extraction, manufacturing, and transport to final disposal. The EPA report showed that production, transport, use and disposal of goods and materials contributes 37 percent to the nation’s GHG inventory. That’s more than building energy consumption, passenger transportation or food.

The global impact of US consumption of goods and materials is even greater. A supplemental white paper released simultaneously by the Product Policy Institute, Products, Packaging and US Greenhouse Gas Emissions, shows that when emissions from products made abroad and consumed here are included, and exports are subtracted, the number rises to 44 percent. When viewed from the perspective of consumption, the greenhouse gas impact of the US is higher than suggested by the traditional IPCC accounting standard. This is of great importance: consumption is the root cause of emissions, and failure to at least acknowledge the impacts of consumption exposes EPA to unnecessary criticism that the US Inventory is providing an incomplete picture of how the nation contributes to emissions (and indirectly, rewarding off-shoring of emissions and associated jobs).

Both traditional sector-based and the newer systems-based and consumption-related views are useful. But the systems-based view is more conducive to materials management policies and programs actions that offer a potent way for governments and communities to reduce GHG emissions. Materials management policies and programs are valuable approaches because they:
  • can result in communities, counties, and state agencies achieving faster and cheaper progress in reducing GHG than would be made otherwise;
  • are often more directly under the control of communities and jurisdictions than are energy supplies and regional transportation;
  • are subject to government purchasing power; and
  • increase local businesses and jobs – by increasing product stewardship¸ reuse, recycling and composting.
We endorse these recommendations:

1. The US Inventory should integrate “systems-based” greenhouse accounting -- and present it alongside the traditional sector-based view.

2. Consumption-related emissions should be formally acknowledged in the US Greenhouse Gas Inventory. The US Greenhouse Gas Inventory should be much more explicit in stating that the inventory is limited to emissions that physically originate within the national borders of the US. It should explain that the US also contributes to emissions that are counted in the inventories of other nations, as a consequence of imports.

3. Given the need to reduce the short-term impacts of greenhouse gases, the US Inventory should portray results using both 100-year, and 20-year Global Warming Potentials. While the IPCC standards require the use of 100-year Global Warming Potentials (GWPs), the Inventory correctly points out that other GWPs are also available, and including that analysis would be helpful to planners, policymakers, and the public.

[your name and/or organization here]

Sign on by April 8th at

VIDEO: Maine Product Stewardship Bill Signed Into Law

March 30, 2010 — Maine Governor John Baldacci signed a first-in-the-nation framework product stewardship law. The law creates a systematic approach for identifying troublesome products in the waste stream for new product stewardship programs which assign end-of-life recovery and recycling costs to product manufacturers. The approach will be similar to Maines electronic waste (e-waste) law, signed in 2004, which has resulted in the successful recycling of more than 25 million pounds of e-waste, keeping toxic materials out of land fills. Watch the video below, or check it out on .