Extended Producer Responsibility
A recent video shoot at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency got me thinking more about responsible recycling. My interviewee forwarded me a link to a new case study in market based recycling that should be of interest for 2020Hindsight readers.
Economists and environmentalists agree that we don't recycle as much as we ought (pathetic volumes compared to other countries) and that there is still redeemable economic value in much of the materials that end up in landfills. But how do we break bad habits and get producers on board?
A buzzword with recycling innovators is "extended producer responsibility" which lays more burden on producers of plastics, metals, and textiles that can have re-use:
"[it] shifts the responsibility for post-consumer waste from taxpayers and municipal governments to the companies that produce the packaging, creating incentives for producers to reduce the amount of packaging they create, increasing packaging recycling rates, providing revenue to improve recycling systems, and reducing carbon and energy use." (asyousow.org)
This video gives a quick overview. Listen for the inherent undertone of economic development.
Appearing at 2:04 in this video, I noticed architect and author William McDonough, a pioneering voice in the cradle to cradle manufacturing movement (check out his awesome Ted Talk from 2007). He envisions a system where, if a manufacturer makes a plastic bottles and the burden of collecting that bottle back from the use-stream falls on them, market forces will nudge them to make that process easier, cheaper, and cleaner than the present structure, which is filled with inefficiency and room for error.
On top of that, manufacturers should embrace modern green chemistry and make a shoe, as McDonough uses as an example in his book, that has embedded seed pods and completely compostable.
Yes, it is up to consumers to reduce waste. Yes, we need to be literate about how and what to recycle. But it's time to get producers of waste on board, too.