Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Shareholders Ask Major Packaged Goods Companies to Adopt EPR

Press Release from As You Sow:

SAN FRANCISCO, April 27 – The shareholder advocacy group As You Sow will file shareholder resolutions this week with consumer packaged goods giants Procter & Gamble (P&G) and General Mills to adopt Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs aimed at elimination of post‐consumer waste. The proposals are the first to be filed by shareholders on this issue and will press the companies to take a first step toward this goal by collecting and recycling product packaging (plastic, glass, metals, paper) in their U.S. operations.
These new proposals follow As You Sow’s successful efforts in pressing Coca‐Cola Co., PepsiCo and Nestle Waters North America to take responsibility for more than 50% of their U.S. product packaging.
The P&G and General Mills proposals ask the companies to report to shareholders on how taking responsibility for post‐consumer product packaging can reduce carbon emissions as well as air and water pollution and lead to re‐evaluating the way they design, use and re‐use the resources and materials that go into their packaging. The proposals also ask the companies to take the lead in emerging public policy debates under way in several states on how to manage and finance EPR policies.
The shareholder proposals to General Mills and P&G were co‐filed by Green Century Capital Management and Walden Asset Management; the proposal to P&G was also co‐filed by Trillium Asset Management.
“We’re burning and landfilling 40 million tons of recyclable packaging materials estimated to be worth $15 to $23 billion every year.” said Conrad MacKerron, As You Sow’s Senior Director for Corporate Responsibility. “We can no longer afford to discard packaging containing valuable resources. As shareholders we see this as throwing away revenue and we need to stop it immediately. ”
EPR has already proven a success in Canada and the EU on a broad range of products and for electronics recycling in the U.S. with 23 states adopting laws making producers responsible for collection and recycling. As You Sow has been at the forefront of these efforts working with HP, Dell, Apple and Best Buy one‐waste recycling programs.
“We believe it’s time for companies to manage the full life cycle of packaging as efficiently as they manage design and marketing of products,” said MacKerron. Taking responsibility for environmental externalities is a core goal of As You Sow’s Corporate Social Responsibility Program and EPR is a key step towards an industrial system of sustainable production and consumption. EPR commitments can provide a triple benefit of: 1) more efficient and sustainable use of materials; 2) reduced pollution emissions; and 3) a stronger product stewardship profile for stakeholders.
“For decades companies have passed the costs of onerous environmental externalities onto U.S. taxpayers. Increasingly an essential component of environmental leadership is taking responsibility for post‐consumer packaging and end‐of‐use waste," said Tim Smith, Senior Vice President of Walden Asset Management, a co‐filer of both proposals. "Electronics companies are now addressing this challenge.
We're asking P&G and General Mills to constructively engage with stakeholders to identify how successful EPR laws in Europe and Canada can be best applied to the U.S."
EPR laws in Europe have led to some impressive successes. In 2007 the average packaging recycling rate across 27 participating EU countries reached 59%. Belgium's FOST Plus system recycled 93% of consumer packaging in 2009. 32 million tons of packaging was recovered by EPR programs in EU countries in 2009 saving 25 million tons of CO2. EPR has shown it can decouple packaging growth from economic growth. Between 1998 and 2007, four main elements of the packaging waste stream‐‐glass, metals, paper and cardboard, plastics grew at just half the rate of GDP, according to the European Environmental Agency.
Several factors suggest that the time is right for companies to take responsibility for packaging:
·       Coca‐Cola and Nestle are Early Endorsers: Coca‐Cola and Nestle Waters NA are supporting EPR state legislation that would make them responsible for post‐consumer collection and recycling; and the companies are urging peers to support it as well.
·       Reducing Our Carbon Footprint: A recent analysis of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data concludes that the energy needed to produce, use and dispose of products and packaging accounts for 44% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Recycling post‐consumer packaging can therefore have a substantial impact on carbon footprint reduction. For example, making cans from recycled aluminum instead of virgin ore uses 95% less energy and creates 95% less greenhouse gas emissions.
·       Reducing Waste Collection Costs: States and municipalities are looking favorably at EPR systems as a way to reduce municipal solid waste collection costs at a time of record state and local budget pressures.
·       State EPR Laws Already in Place: EPR laws are already in effect in 23 states for electronic waste recycling and in a smaller number of states for collection of hazardous items like paint, pesticides and mercury thermometers.
As You Sow is asking companies to:
·       Acknowledge responsibility for post‐consumer packaging collection and recycling;
·       Report to shareholders on costs and benefits of existing EPR mandates companies are subject to in other countries, including the benefits of more sustainable packaging design, more efficient use of materials, and reduction in air and water pollution emissions;
·       Work with stakeholders to determine what actions the company can take to independently promote EPR for packaging systems;
·       Actively engage with stakeholders in the public policy debate on the best way to implement EPR for packaging legislation in the U.S.; and
·       Integrate EPR concepts into in corporate and public policy initiatives that are producer financed and managed, subject to aggressive recycling goals set by government, and not specifically aimed at repealing existing container deposit laws.
As You Sow is a nonprofit organization that promotes corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building, and innovative legal strategies. For more information visit

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Rethinking Single-Stream Curbside Collection

Guest blog by Helen Spiegelman, Board President Product Policy Institute

I think it's time to put forward the fundamental question of what materials are suited to curbside collection and what are not.  The widespread introduction of single-stream collection (collecting all recyclable materials mixed together at curbside, to be sorted out at a sorting facility) brought us face-to-face with the challenge of collecting glass with other commodities.  I think this is the thin edge of a wedge.

Some communities and haulers are now trying to get customers NOT to put glass in the cart.  Nevertheless, in practice lots of people continue to put glass in, either because they don't know about the new rule or because they really want to recycle glass...just like they put all sorts of other stuff that they really want to recycle into the cart, which must be pulled out at the other end and sent to landfill.  Bottom line, once you open the Pandora's box of "multi-material" curbside recycling you build in inefficiencies and problems (glass is just the beginning).

I think responsible operators of curbside programs should take a hard look at their actual operations and answer these questions:
-what commodities deliver the highest payload in the system?
-what commodities incur the lowest direct costs to the system?
-what commodities create the least problems (contamination, confusion, etc.) in the system?

My strong sense is that the answers to these questions will make a good case for operating curbside programs that collect PAPER ONLY.  As soon as you introduce other stuff, you have problems.  Problems for the customer knowing what's in and what's not.  Problems for the sorting facility (usually called the materials recovery facility, or MRF) cleaning up the materials.  Problems for the markets using the commodities.

I think municipal and commercial haulers need to be really clear about who their customers are.  You are supplying paper mills and plastic convertors with feedstock -- this is recycling's bottom line.  It is time to tailor the collection system to the needs of this market - not the so-called "convenience" of residents and institutional, commercial and industrial (ICI) customers.

It will be challenging to withdraw services to residents and ICI customers that they have become accustomed to -- especially when these services have been possible because they are seen as a community service, like libraries and public parks.  But the bottom line is that trying to be all things to all people has a cost and it's time we stopped ignoring that cost.  Curbside is a good system -- for some commodities.  Let's use it for what it's good for, and find something else for the other commodities.