Last week I explained that in response to an invitation to participate in a roundtable composed of waste and recycling editors at the Resource Recycling Conference at the San Antonio Marriott, October 26–27, I’ve decided to present some of the questions we will be addressing, along with my first-flush responses, followed with suggestions (occasionally scoldings) of others from whom I’ve sought help. So here we go with round two:
Question 2: More than half of Americans live in states with producer-responsibility laws for electronics. Will we see more EPR in the coming years? Do you think this is a successful approach? What’s your take?
My Response. If we allow producer responsibility to proceed as a free-market process without government interference, it will succeed beyond our wildest dreams. For starters, because producers will include recovery to the overall cost of doing business, and thus the sales price, it’s those who consume who bear the burden, not the public at large. As competition matures, producers will work every bit as hard to decrease recovery costs as those involved in production. Almost inevitably, this will involve changes in the materials, processes and finished products themselves in order to achieve competitive advantages. If government gets involved, the system will lose one of its most powerful features.
Respondent #1. Let us learn from European experience and not repeat the mistakes. The EPR system raises prices for the consumer goods—that is a given! However, does it really improve the environmental quality or reduce waste discards? Who tracks where the materials end up and what happens to it?
Nobody audits claims.
Respondent #2. The key issue, in my mind, is how the products are collected from the consumer. My concern is that industries will develop their own collection systems instead of integrating their PR responsibility within the existing local government and commercial collection services. The result could be higher costs due to more collection service providers, more pollution, road wear and tear etc.
Respondent #3. EPR is the hottest new trend that actually does have legs—enough success has been achieved by enough communities and states that most of the industry feels there is a real answer here.
Now then, it’s your turn. What’re your thoughts on EPR? Opportunities? Advantages? Pitfalls? Disasters in the making?
Let us know either by responding here at the end or by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next week’s topic? Zero Waste, so gird your loins and get ready to do battle for your beliefs.