Imagine a world in which there were state-mandated middleman organizations that contracted for and controlled the recovery of all discarded resources; that were funded by large corporations according to a product’s market share; that didn’t pay taxes; that were exempted from antitrust laws; that contracted with today’s recyclers or somebody new as they wished; that paid recycling operators whatever they decided, maybe even zero; and that wouldn’t let recyclers charge service fees no matter what handling expenses they incurred. The monopolies wouldn’t actually own the resources, they would simply control the industrial structure and markets. Imagine that they could demand approval power over whether a recycling operator sold his or her business, and to whom. The overall goals: to make recycling more efficient, recover more resources, and provide more post-consumer resources to producers.
That’s the brave new world of EPR, much of which is in place in British Columbia, and which is even today helping US legislators write laws to bring us resource monopolies that might ask for exemption from antitrust laws. You can read most of this vision in a draft white paper from the new nonprofit Recycling Reinvented (RR). It was recently posted to the GreenYes listserv, so I have felt free to post it here, with only a few annotations.
RR White Paper (PDF)
RR hopes the monopolies would consult with existing recyclers. Maybe rural areas would be serviced.
RR’s board of environmental heavy hitters consists of attorney Robert F, Kennedy, Jr., President of Waterkeeper Alliance and Clinical Professor and Supervising Attorney at Pace University School of Law’s Environmental Litigation Clinic; Kim Jeffrey, President and CEO of Nestle Waters of North America; Bill Shireman, formerly of Californians Against Waste and now of Future 500; and Conrad MacKerron, founder of the As You Sow Corporate Responsibility Program. The Executive Director is Paul Gardner, who served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 2007 – 2011 and who was Executive Director of the Recycling Association of Minnesota from 1997 – 2006.
RR’s new Outreach Director, Melissa Innes, is resigning as a Maine legislator to take this job. She released the group’s draft EPR whitepaper on the GreenYes listserv. It describes most of the structure I outlined in the first paragraph, although I took a couple of those points from current events in British Columbia. BC is the international poster child for EPR achievement. But BC is looking for a site for its new proposed incinerator to supplement the one in Vancouver that now burns and therefore wastes 300,000 tonnes a year. Many BC communities already remove organics from their mixed discards, so what’s expected to be available for burning, post-EPR, that can support long-term contracts?
RR works on legislation and intends to help write the brave new rules. Ms. Innes doesn’t expect to recommend incineration. Nestle Waters North America is considered different from the Nestle corporation in the UK that is advocating more incineration of plastics.
Other EPR organizations include the Product Stewardship Council (PSC), which has the Covanta incinerator company on its board; and the Product Policy Institute (PPI), which has RR’s Melissa Innes on its board.
Regarding big-corporate control, PPI’s Matt Prindville said, “We need the corporations to save recycling because they are the only ones with capital.” So recycling needs to be “saved?”
Gird your loins, recyclers, if you want to keep control of your industry or even the resources you personally harvest. Or get ready to say “uncle,” and with a smile, too, if you want to stay in business. Bill Sheehan, PPI’s Executive Director, once asked Dr. Ore and me, “What do you care who you work for?”
As for me, I work for the planet.