Washington — A trade association made up of major consumer brands including Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc. and Clorox Co. is proposing a fee on virgin resin in the U.S. to level the playing field for recycled plastic and pay for improvements in the country's recycling system.
The proposal from the Consumer Brands Association is part of a broader recycling policy platform it put out recently that included five other funding options, such as higher landfill charges, and does not get into details on resin fees.
But having some of the world's biggest corporate buyers of plastics endorsing a virgin resin fee is a major shift and could move an idea previously limited to environmental groups and academics to the front of the debate around how — and who — pays for better recycling systems.
CBA argues a virgin plastics fee would make it more economical to use recycled content, and it comes as many of its member companies in the consumer goods industries have made commitments to use more recycled plastic in the U.S. but say they'll struggle to find enough material because of low recycling rates.
"Virgin resin, which is used to make plastic, is currently less expensive than recycled resin," CBA said in its mid-April document, Achieving America's Recycling Future. "A fee for virgin resin would put it on price parity with recycled resin, making it more cost-effective for use in packaging."
CBA, which changed its name from the Grocery Manufacturers Association in January, included the virgin plastics fee as one of six funding mechanisms, along with packaging fees, waste generator fees, landfill tipping charges, per-bag fees for residential trash and voluntary industry fees to support education.
Meghan Stasz, vice president of packaging and sustainability for the Arlington, Va.-based group, said a resin fee "could be a good tool" to address the price disparity between virgin and recycled resins.
"This is one of the newest ideas in the financing conversation, so we don't admittedly have all of the details hammered out," she said. "But what we wanted to do was get that concept out … so that we can have exactly those kinds of conversations with stakeholders. It's a concept that we have talked about as an industry."