GLOBE-Net, September 25, 2012
- Consumer Packaging - who should be responsible for
dealing with the leftover wastes from consumer products packaging?
Municipal governments generally have had to manage such materials
as part of their solid waste management programs.
In recent years there have been calls to apply the concept of
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) - laws or
regulations that shift the cost of managing post-use products to
product manufacturers - to paper and packaging.
According to a new study conducted by consulting firm SAIC
for the U.S. Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), there are
more viable alternatives to extending EPR to cover product
The SAIC study looked at
various EPR models to assess how they change consumer behavior and
waste-reduction outcomes. It concludes that EPR "does not provide a
price signal that is sufficiently differentiated to cause producers
to change package formats," concluding that there is "no evidence
to support the assertion that EPR causes changes in package design
Further, the study notes that U.S. communities and states
that have implemented alternatives to extended producer
responsibility policies are achieving high municipal solid waste
recycling rates at reasonable costs, while also addressing a wider
spectrum of the waste stream than narrowly-focused EPR
The report shows that mandatory EPR
programs aimed at food, beverage and consumer product packaging
would not deliver against their promise of creating more
cost-effective residential recycling programs and driving packaging
"The food, beverage and consumer products industry is committed
to environmental stewardship and reducing its impact on the
environment," said Meghan Stasz, senior director of sustainability
at GMA, at a recent Sustainable Packaging Forum in Pittsburgh,
Penn., where the study's findings were announced.
"As part of this commitment, America's food, beverage and
consumer products industry is working to identify efficient,
holistic waste reduction and recycling solutions that work for
consumers and communities, and this analysis by SAIC tells us that
EPR does not meet those standards."
The study evaluated whether mandatory EPR policies for packaging
are the preferred approach for meeting the environmental objectives
of the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry in the United
SAIC conducted a thorough analysis of recycling rates, system
costs, packaging changes, and other data from various European and
Canadian jurisdictions that employ EPR for packaging.
They also studied recycling and waste management data for areas
of the U.S. with high recycling rates, such as Ramsey County,
Minnesota (located in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area), a
non-EPR region where the county and its cities have put many model
municipal recycling policies and practices in place. Key findings
- EPR does not necessarily result in improved overall recycling
rates. At 24 percent, the recycling rate of all municipal solid
waste in the U.S. where there is no packaging EPR exceeds Canada's
(18 percent) and the European Union's (23 percent), where EPR is
- EPR does not necessarily prompt changes in packaging design and
selection. Despite a faster-growing GDP, packaging use in the U.S.
declined at a faster rate than in the EU, where EPR is
- EPR does not necessarily make waste and recycling systems more
efficient or otherwise decrease costs. Ramsey County, Minnesota, a
non-EPR jurisdiction, has a lower net cost per ton ($156) than EPR
programs in Manitoba ($166) and Ontario ($202). In fact, EPR
programs increase government and administrative costs.
- States and municipalities already have at their disposal a
suite of non-EPR policies that are both effective and efficient in
terms of raising recycling rates. Together, they can achieve high
recycling rates, without excess cost or administrative burden that
results from EPR.
"The CPG industry is focused on responsible solutions that
address solid waste across the entire lifecycle - from design to
disposal to recovery - and that account not only for packaging, but
food waste as well," continued Stasz.
"The most successful recycling and waste recovery programs will
result from comprehensive approaches that leverage industry
innovation and collaborative partnerships between NGO's, government
and industry, not one-size-fits-all mandates."
The study does not dwell on the fact that EPR programs have
been in effect in Europe and Canada for many years, and have
been effective in diverting such packaging from municipal
waste streams. The study argues that city and state
waste-diversion laws, which put the burden on households and trash
haulers are a more effective means for achieving these goals.
A complete copy of the GMA-SAIC report is