California waste management officials are recommending a “a mandatory comprehensive, statewide packaging program” to reduce the amount of packaging that ends up in landfills — 8 million tons annually, or about a quarter of California’s total waste stream — according to an internal memo sent to the director of the California Department of Resources Recycling Recovery (CalRecycle).
As initially reported by Resource Recycling, the memo essentially recommends setting up an extender producer responsibility (EPR) system. Such systems require manufacturers to fund and manage recycling and disposal programs for their products.
While several US states have EPR laws on the books covering other products — these include paint, carpet, electronics, pharmaceuticals, fluorescent lighting, medical waste, thermostats and mattresses — none have EPR laws for packaging.
The memo, sent to CalRecycle director Scott Smithline from Howard Levenson, the deputy director of the materials management and local assistance division within the department, stems from CalRecycle’s January 2016 Manufacturers Challenge. At the event, state officials asked industry participants to submit strategies on ways to voluntarily reduce the amount of packaging going to landfill by 50 percent by 2020.
The memo says they failed: “The overwhelming majority of material presented was a summary of current, national activities rather than proposing new, California-specific activities, how they would be implemented, and how they would achieve the 50 percent goal.”
So now the state should develop a mandatory packaging policy model, the memo says.
The debate over voluntary versus mandatory EPR is ongoing, with manufacturers generally preferring voluntary programs while recycling advocates say EPR laws work best in the long-run.
In an earlier interview with Environmental Leader, Call2Recycle CEO Carl Smith said while voluntary EPR plays an important role in waste management, in the long-term, most voluntary EPR programs are not financially sustainable.
In January, Call2Recycle partnered with Vermont to launch first single-use battery recycling program in US.