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

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