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

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