Isn’t EPR just a government mandate that will increase costs and reduce consumer spending?
While EPR may sound as if it only offers increased costs, it can also offer benefits for brand owners. Brand owners would likely pass on the cost of EPR fees to consumers, but consumers will have additional purchasing power since they will no longer pay the cost of recycling, either through their private hauler or municipality. As recycling rates go up, the increased supply of post-consumer material available for new packaging and paper will help reduce or stabilize pricing for new products. Recycling Reinvented is working on some data models to demonstrate both the costs and benefits.
Will our company have to get into the garbage and recycling business?
No. EPR for packaging and paper in the U.S. would use existing infrastructure such as curbside recycling service that is already operated by private haulers and some municipalities. Brand owners will likely join together and form one or more nonprofit producer responsibility organizations (PROs) that will administer the EPR program. PROs exist in other industrialized countries and they compile data, determine EPR fees, contract with haulers and municipalities, and communicate with government.
Is government going to set EPR fees and hold onto the money?
No. Brand owners, in consultation with government, haulers, processors, and manufacturers, would set the fees charged on their products. The fees need to be set so that industry meets goals set by government, and government would have the ability to audit the accounting system. Government will also not handle the money.
How will EPR raise recycling rates?
Since brand owners will pay for recycling services and will see lower fees as more material gets recycled, they will have an incentive to increase recovery through several methods. Methods include: expanding best practices (e.g., multi-family, public space recycling) in all parts of a state; setting material fees that reward success; directly appealing to consumers using private sector marketing; establishing minimum standards for recycling service; harmonizing what materials are accepted on a statewide basis; and using better measurement to make data-driven investments.
Why does EPR have to single out brand owners when other entities should take some responsibility as well?
Under and EPR system for packaging and paper, brand owners have the greatest ability to help reduce costs and find efficiency over our current decentralized recycling system. Since brand owners will likely pass along the cost of EPR fees to consumers, consumers will be shouldering responsibility under EPR. Local and state governments will have some significant oversight responsibilities, but EPR also means that government obligations to spend taxpayer dollars will be reduced.
Isn’t there a voluntary option that brand owners could use to get the same results?
Recycling Reinvented was created because our current recycling system is not meeting the needs of the marketplace. Recycling has seen many voluntary initiatives come and go, and they rarely bind all stakeholders together to get measurable results in the way that EPR would. There are many best practices in recycling that have resulted from voluntary efforts, and an EPR system would scale these practices up on a state level rather than hope that local governments will employ them.