Thursday, December 22, 2011

Got Jobs? Bottle Bill States Do

By Matt Prindiville, Associate Director

Just in time for the holidays comes a hopeful message about recycling and job creation from our friends at the Container Recycling Institute.  Last week they released an exhaustive study on the job impacts of container-deposit-refund systems, more commonly known as bottle bills.  For folks that live in states with bottle bills (like my home state of Maine), it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that these recycling initiatives create jobs.  However, what may be surprising is just how much local economic activity they actually create, and the serious opportunities that exist to create jobs through the expansion of deposit-refund recycling laws.

Their chief findings were that:

·        “Recycling creates many more jobs than disposal,” and bottle bills create the most jobs of all.  While several studies have also confirmed this as a generally well-understood principle, CRI adds new comprehensive data and the added dimension of comparing container-deposit systems with traditional municipal-run recycling and solid waste programs.

·        “Deposits create more jobs than curbside recycling relative to beverage containers.” CRI estimates that collecting bottles and cans through container-deposit systems yields 11 to 38 times as many jobs as collecting these same containers in curbside recycling programs. 

·        “Material throughput is the primary driver for recycling jobs.”  This is a fancy way of saying, “the more you collect for recycling, the more jobs you create.”  Because states with bottle bills collect three times more beverage containers than non-bottle bill states, CRI documents that they commensurately reap the benefits of the added jobs associated with collecting more material for recycling.

·        “The secondary driver of container-recycling jobs is the amount of workers required to collect, sort and transport the containers.”  With regards to job creation, bottle bills succeed here again due to the decentralized, entrepreneurial nature of container-deposit systems versus municipal recycling.

·        “Jobs gained in recycling far outweigh any jobs lost in extraction of virgin materials, landfilling or domestic manufacturing.”  CRI’s analysis effectively makes the case that increased jobs from recycling more materials significantly offsets – by an exponentially-wide margin – any potential job losses in landfilling, and/or extraction and use of virgin materials.

The CRI report complements the recent report by the Tellus Institute, which estimates that 1.5 million new jobs can be created by increasing the US recycling rate from 33% to 75%.  If you’re a policy maker struggling to come up with job-creation policies, this is welcome news.  When you consider that states with container deposit laws already achieve between 70 and 90% recycling rates for beverage containers today, increasing and expanding bottle bills seems to be a no-brainer. 

For skeptics that think any new jobs created would be low-wage sorting jobs at materials recovery facilities or bottle depots, both the CRI and Tellus reports demonstrate that increasing recycling directly translates into reviving America’s manufacturing sector.  According to the Tellus report, increasing the US recycling rate to 75% through container-deposit laws and other EPR initiatives could lead to an increase of 550,000 new American manufacturing jobs, an almost 200% increase.

Lawmakers now have compelling evidence that recycling isn’t just saving trees and energy.  It can also be about growing good jobs at home and creating entrepreneurial opportunities, all while protecting the environment at the same time.  Now, that truly is good news for the holidays!

Monday, December 12, 2011

EPA Sustainable Packaging Dialogue: Big Consumer Goods Companies Not All On Same Page

By Bill Sheehan, Executive Director, Product Policy Institute

From September 2010 through August 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency convened and facilitated a dialogue on how to finance recycling of consumer goods in the United States. The dialogue included four two-day meetings. Product Policy Institute was one of 30 invited organizations and businesses. Participants included representatives from ten consumer goods companies (such as Proctor & Gamble and Coca-Cola), two retailers (Wal-Mart and Target), seven state governments, five local governments, three environmental public interest organizations, and other non-governmental organizations [see report, Appendix B, p. 120]. The final report from the year-long dialogue was released on EPA’s website on December 9th and a public comment period has begun [see below].

The stakeholder dialogue showed a gaping divergence between public interest organizations and governments on the one hand, and the consumer packaged goods companies, on the other. Most of the former group entered the dialogue with the understanding that it would primarily focus on extended producer responsibility as the most promising solution to boost recycling of packaging materials in the U.S, the vast majority of which are wasted in landfills and incinerators. Governmental representatives made it clear that municipal recycling systems are maxed out, and that current taxpayer and ratepayer funding and decision-making is inadequate to achieve needed results. 

Instead of exploring EPR, industry representatives insisted that the focus should be on financing the status quo (see Strategies for Optimizing the Current System). The discussion on Financing Strategies was diluted by industry’s insistence that all conceivable options be considered, including those which have been shown to be inadequate (e.g., taxpayer-funded municipal recycling) and/or are politically or logistically not viable (e.g., federal funding for recycling infrastructure).

In spite of the fact that these same companies participate in take-back programs in Europe, Canada and other places around the world, most consumer goods companies balked at the notion of assuming responsibility for their packages after consumers are done with them. “We’re not in the garbage business,” was a frequently heard refrain.

However, these companies were not all on the same page. During the Dialogue, a consultant hired by Coca-Cola issued a report supporting EPR for packaging (although the report was never discussed in the meetings). An Estée Lauder company, Origins, has been operating a voluntary take-back program for its cosmetic packaging, and Estée Lauder publicly advocates for individual producer responsibility. It was also evident that retailers are evaluating the potential for increasing customer traffic and loyalty from take-back programs.

With other significant dialogues on EPR for packaging happening around the United States and the likelihood of state legislation forthcoming, the large product manufacturers and retailers are going to have to make a decision. Will they support EPR policies – which many of them comply with around the world – for the truly sustainable management of packaging? Or will they be on the wrong side of history and continue to fight for taxpayers to subsidize the massive amounts of packaging waste they create?


The report is: Final Report of the Dialogue on Sustainable Financing of Recycling of Packaging at the Municipal Level (PDF) (128 pp, 872K). EPA will accept comments on this report until February 9, 2012 . The docket for this rulemaking is EPA-HQ-RCRA-2011-0912 and can be accessed at

Below are highlights excerpted from the 125-page report:
-- an overview of the major “work products” of the dialogue, and
-- three major topics that “illustrated divergence among stakeholders.”

“Work Products” [page 7 >]

“Participating stakeholders identified, examined and evaluated a total of eleven strategic options for financing recycling of packaging and printed material, and also proposed the advancement of eight distinct projects to optimize the current system. Together, these two work streams considered opportunities for enhancing the funding available to the system while reducing the cost of the system’s operation.”

“Strategies for Financing Recycling"
The assessments were intended to provide a balanced summary of participating perspectives regarding the advantages and disadvantages of each strategy, providing a strong foundation for leaders in the public, private and civic sectors to determine how best to address the challenge of financing recycling. The strategies are categorized by general source of funding: producers, consumers, rate-payers, and taxpayers.

• Producer-funded strategies
• Consumer-funded strategies
• Rate-payer funded strategies
• Taxpayer-funded strategies”

“Strategies for Optimizing the Current System
Eight potential projects were identified as strategies for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the existing recycling system, to meet the characteristics of success that the group discussed. The projects evolved out of the mapping exercise through which participants identified challenges or areas for improvement at each phase of the system. Participants jointly developed a set of project briefs…”

Major Topics [page 4 > & 19 >]
“The major topics that generated discussion and illustrated divergence among stakeholders included:”

“Extended Producer Responsibility
Many participants would have preferred to focus largely or exclusively on certain financing strategies they believed to be most promising, especially extended producer responsibility (EPR). At least some stakeholders believe the dialogue missed a critical opportunity for productive deliberation and cross-sector learning by not pursuing deeper analysis of EPR.”

“Some participants, however, including most brand owner representatives, expressed strong discomfort with any explicit emphasis on EPR. A handful of stakeholders expressed the view that EPR was in fact too broad a subject given the need for meaningful and near-term action, and that a somewhat narrower but still reasonably holistic focus on sustainable waste management – i.e., end-of-life management of key materials – would be most productive. The chapter below on Financing Strategies provides more detail on the group’s deliberations and stakeholder perspectives regarding EPR and other strategic options. [page 20:]”

Some participants believed that inclusion of printed paper in the scope of inquiry was inappropriate since relevant industry sectors (e.g., paper manufacturing, printing and publishing) were not represented at the table. Alternatively, a few participants preferred a focus on priority material types (e.g., aluminum, cardboard, steel) rather than all forms of packaging.”

“Dedicated focus on recycling
Some participating stakeholders – largely from industry – raised concerns about the focus on recycling and advocated for a more holistic assessment of end use options, hoping to explore how best to maximize the recovery of value (in financial and environmental terms) from the municipal solid waste stream. They preferred to be able to consider an integrated waste management approach including composting and waste-to-energy, determining the appropriate management strategy for each set of circumstances. Also, some participants from various sectors emphasized the need for source reduction and reuse to play a more significant role.”

“The purpose of the project was to solicit a range of stakeholder opinion and identify promising options rather than attempt to achieve agreement among participants. This report therefore does not represent consensus views but rather serves as a summary of deliberations, including findings and some jointly developed recommendations.” [bold in original]

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things: Suggestions for a Greener Holiday Season

By: Suzanna Baum, Membership Coordinator, Environmental Paper Network

Dec 2, 2011
With the holidays upon us, the choices we make to be environmentally conscious have more impact than usual.  We can make decisions to help reduce paper waste however, which will leave you and your loved ones feeling good about lessening your footprint this season.  Getting creative, purchasing recycled wrapping paper and cards, eliminating unwanted mail, and giving package-free gifts, will give you the room to boast that you're transforming the paper industry; a gift that Mother Earth and future generations will surely appreciate!

It's undeniable that wrapping (and unwrapping) gifts is a major part of the fun this time of year.  Some ideas that you can feel good about are ones that have been around for ages.  The good ol' brown paper packages tied up with string can usually stir up warm fuzzies, and re-used brown grocery bags work great.  How about the colorful comics section of the newspaper?  Or reusing materials around the house such as unused fabric from the sewing room, old maps, unused jars, or an old t-shirt that you never wear anymore? Ribbons wrapped around any of these make for a visual treat sure to be enjoyed under the tree.

Lacking the resources or time to be creative? Feel determined to use wrapping paper or send your highly anticipated cards?  There is always the option to purchase convenient, recycled products. There are many resources to help you find recycled materials for the holidays.  Conservatree, our featured EPN member this month, has put it all into a convenient chart for your viewing. Check it out here: Holiday Products Listing. Some other options: Twisted Limb Paperworks, My Good Greetings , Green Field Paper Company, Fish Lips Paper Designs, and Earth Love'n Paper Products. (Thanks to Greenline Paper for some tips)

All the paper waste doesn't necessarily come from our end at home though. I can recall a time when my mailbox was full of extra mail during the holidays with catalogs and special offers.  I was able to eliminate that wasteful burden all year round through a wonderful tool offered by one of EPN's members, Catalog Choice.  Get on board here: stop mail.

Aside from all of these options for paper conservation and recycling decisions, there is also the opportunity to donate gifts to your favorite non-profit, for yourself or on behalf of your gift-receivers.  Instead of adding more stuff to the planet, you're growing a cause that you and/or your loved ones believe in.  It's easy to donate to support the work of some of your favorite organizations in our Network here

I hope these suggestions help you to enjoy your green season this year.  Doing your part for the planet is a gift that will keep on giving. Happy Holidays!

About Our Guest Blogger
Suzanna Baum is Membership Coordinator for Environmental Paper Network.  She blogs each month highlighting different featured members of EPN.  You can find her blogs here.