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:

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:

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

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 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 -  - 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 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, 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