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:

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:

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:,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:

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: