An alliance of more than 30 public-interest groups and other supporting organizations have formed a new coalition to push for public policy changes that would make manufacturers responsible for collecting and recycling the products and packaging they produce — a concept known as extended producer responsibility.
“We want to bring recycling into the 21st century,” said the groups in announcing the formation of the Cradle² coalition April 19.
The initial organizations that make up Cradle² include the Product Policy Institute and eight public-interest organizations that have helped pass EPR legislation in the U.S.: the Sierra Club of California, the New York Public Interest Research Group, the Texas Campaign for the Environment, Clean Water Action in Massachusetts, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Clean Water Action in Rhode Island, the Vermont Public Interest Research Group and Zero Waste in Washington.
“We've come together because we're concerned about the human and environmental impacts of throwaway products and packaging,” said Matt Prindiville, one of the co-founders of the coalition and associate director of the PPI, which was the driving force behind the coalition. PPI has advocated for the development of cradle-to-cradle producer responsibility for products and packaging since 2003.
“Most people don't realize that when we throw away our newspaper or soda can, we are actually throwing away American jobs,” said Abby King, policy advocate with the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “In order to get to higher recycling rates that can create millions of new jobs, we need manufacturer take-back policies to build infrastructure, encourage entrepreneurial development and help change consumer behavior.”
Cradle² pointed to a recent study by the Tellus Institute which said that boosting the nationwide recycling rate of municipal solid waste from the current level of 34 percent to 75 percent would result in 1.5 million new jobs and reduce greenhouse gas and pollution.
“We know better products can be designed with people and the planet in mind,” said Prindiville. “[Creating] better systems for recovering, reusing and recycling them will revitalize our economy and create jobs in our communities.”
The announcement comes just one week after the PPI, the Product Stewardship Institute and the California Product Stewardship Council announced that 48 organizations across the U.S. have agreed on a single definition for both product stewardship and extended producer responsibility, to help guide further public discussions on those two issues.
Prindiville said the name of the Cradle² coalition comes from the groups' vision to build — largely through EPR programs — a cradle-to-cradle economy in the United States where products and packaging are managed from “cradle to cradle” instead of “cradle to grave.”
In most EPR programs, governments set parameters for waste diversion, recycling, or both. The companies that are part of the supply chain for the product or packaging that needs to be recovered at the end of its life work together to develop collection and recycling systems to achieve those objectives, and to determine how those companies will collectively finance the program.
Under EPR, Prindiville said manufacturers finance collection programs to ensure that every consumer product and its packaging are reused or recycled, providing American jobs as well as using resources responsibly.
Today more than 30 European countries have some type of EPR packaging law, and the concept has been gaining momentum in Canada in the past six years.
In the United States, many EPR laws have focused on electronic goods — 25 states now have some type of e-waste take-back program. Altogether, PPI said, there are more than 80 producer responsibility laws in 33 states, covering 10 different product categories from used paint to unwanted electronics to leftover carpet and more.
“Right now, we're consuming the planet's resources at a rate which will not allow the next generation to enjoy the same standard of living, or provide them with the same opportunities to live healthy, productive lives on a healthy, productive planet,” said Annie Pham, policy advocate with the Sierra Club of California. “We owe it to our children to deliver goods and services in ways that sustain and even promote the life-support systems of the planet.”
“Our organizations have provided significant leadership on EPR over the last decade,” PPI said. “Our vision is to build the political power to have states adopt EPR policies for virtually all products and packaging in the waste stream. We have set broad environmental, social and economic goals for EPR policy reform and are working to achieve systemic change in the U.S. economy.”
PPI said the goals of the Cradle² coalition are to:
* Build the political power to have key states pass, and producers implement, policies expanding EPR programs to virtually all products and packaging in the waste stream.
* Create a “tipping point” beyond which EPR is recognized as a dominant U.S. policy.
* Foster better product and packaging design and the creation of new, green jobs in product stewardship.
* Reduce the need for landfills and incineration facilities and the risk of toxic pollution related to product disposal.