The Rhode Island House Environment and Natural Resources Committee held a public hearing March 24, 2016, on House Bill 7896, extended producer responsibility legislation introduced by Rep. Chris Blazejewski and sponsored by other Rhode Island Democratic Reps. Arthur Handy, Joseph Solomon, Lauren Carson and Kathleen Fogarty.
While the committee recommended that the measure be held for further study, at least one nonprofit environmental organization voiced its support for the measure prior to the hearing.
The proposed legislation, first introduced March 9, 2016, would apply to printed paper and packaging. The goals of the legislation include increasing the durability, reusability and recyclability of products and packaging; providing "efficient, effective, convenient and reliable services related to resource recovery and waste reduction"; increasing reuse and recycling of waste across all sectors of the economy; and increasing opportunities and markets for recovered resources.
According to Upstream, which has offices in Maine, Rhode Island and California, though programs such as this have been implemented throughout the developed and developing world, the most analogous one is in place in British ColumbiaAcross that province, local governments no longer pay for their recycling collection programs with taxpayer dollars but by programs set up through the province’s extender producer responsibility law.
“Beginning with the study commission created by S3073 (2012), Rhode Island legislators have been grappling with how to divert more material from the landfill into the state’s recycling systems. Given the stagnation of municipal recycling rates, limited life for the Central Landfill and the ever-changing type of material being put into our recycling system, there is a clear need for action,” Upstream writes in a news release. “Legislative backing of EPR programs for paint, mattresses, mercury thermostats, mercury auto switches and electronic waste in the past decade have proved to create new management systems without increasing program costs for municipalities.”
Jamie Rhodes, program director for Upstream and a resident of Warwick, Rhode Island, says, “Everyone wants to boost recycling and prevent litter. The good news is that we know how to do it. The bad news is that many of these ideas cost money, and that money has to come from somewhere. It’s fair for that funding to come from the companies who put the packaging out there in the first place.”
He continues, “Tipping fees are being raised, recycling rates are stagnant and new material is being put into our recycling stream that does not match the investments made at RI Resource Recovery. An EPR program that covers what is collected in our curbside programs and at transfer stations will bring producers into the conversation about the critical role that they must play in partnership with local governments to reduce waste, reuse goods and recycle materials.
“The largest companies in the U.S. and the world already operate under and support these programs as part of doing business in most of the world,” Rhodes adds. “Companies like Unilever, Coca-Cola, Apple, General Mills, GE or any of the other thousands of companies that comply with these requirements, know that this program is the cornerstone of the circular economy, which is critical to creating a sustainable consumer-driven future.”
Upstream is a U.S.-based environmental organization that seeks to advance sustainability, end plastic pollution and reduce climate disruption through product-focused environmental policies.