In 2010 alone, Americans threw away $11.4 billion in recyclable materials, or 55 million tons of product packaging, including aluminum, glass, paper, plastic, and steel. These unrecycled products and packaging are either burned or sent to landfills, which emit harmful greenhouse gases and contribute to the more than 40% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions created during the production and disposal of products and packaging.

Forty-seven other countries require producers to bear some or all of the cost of post-consumer packaging, which in the U.S. has always been paid for by taxpayers, through extended producer responsibility (EPR) policies.  EPR policies shift the financial responsibility for collecting and recycling used packaging in the U.S. from taxpayers to producers. Currently, more than 70 producer responsibility laws are in effect in 32 U.S. states for products such as batteries, phones, paint and electronics – but not for printed paper and packaging, which accounts for 44% of the waste stream.

Momentum has been building towards new EPR laws over the past two years with companies like Nestlé Waters NA and Coca-Cola indicating support for the policies. With buy in from states and other U.S. corporations, these policies could help companies and manufacturers to greatly increase U.S. recycling rates, reclaim billions of dollars in lost value of materials while helping to spur economic growth and reduce harmful greenhouse gases.

Watch the video below:

As You Sow in a corporate responsibility group that is engaging major U.S. consumer brands to take accountability for recycling post-consumer packaging.

Unfinished Business: The Case for Extended Producer Responsibility from As You Sow on Vimeo.

About The Author

As You Sow

Founded in 1992, As You Sow promotes environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building, and innovative legal strategies. Our efforts create large-scale systemic change by establishing sustainable and equitable corporate practices.