Recycling Reinvented—Working with Top U.S. Industry Leaders to Bring EPR to the U.S.
Here’s the current situation. Recycling rates in the U.S. are stagnant, and the nation’s waste is still being buried in the ground or burned in massive incinerators. State and local government’s coffers are tapped out to find a solution to increase recycling rates. National recycling rates have not exceeded 34 percent, while other industrialized countries recycle twice that percentage. Nonprofit organizations support recycling, and work hard to promote it, but to be really effective, we need to bring business on board to help support and drive the effort. We need the experience and leadership of the private sector to efficiently recycle more of our waste.
Bottom line—we need to improve the system and at Recycling Reinvented, we believe the extended producer responsibility (EPR) model is the best solution.
What is EPR? EPR for packaging and printed paper would require brand owners to pay for the cost of collecting and sorting household recyclables. Currently, consumers pay for this cost through taxes or utility bills. Under EPR, brand owners create one or more nonprofit organizations—a producer responsibility organization (PRO)—to calculate how to allocate the overall cost of recycling to each brand owner according to sales, recyclability of their products and other factors. Brand owners then internalize the cost of EPR fees into the price of new products. The PRO then contracts with waste haulers, recycling facilities and municipalities to cover their cost for collection.
Over time, the PRO can find efficiency in the recycling system to help reduce costs. It’s a radically different way of financing recycling than what we’re doing now, but we know there are many models around the world that work (and some that don’t). What we need to do is find a uniquely American model that works to bring industry the recycled materials they can use to make new products, and in the process up our national recycling rates while also making an efficient, cost-effective system.
A nonprofit organization, Recycling Reinvented, was created in January to introduce EPR to the U.S. Led by former Minnesota legislator and state recycling association director Paul Gardner, and recently joined by Maine State Representative Melissa Innes, the organization has partnered with the bottled water company Nestlé Waters North America and the San Francisco based organization Future 500 to promote EPR. During 2012, Recycling Reinvented staff and board members have drafted model state legislation, spoken to consumer packaging brand owners on the business case for EPR and researched states that would be the most receptive to the idea. Nestlé Waters North America has built bridges to peer companies in the beverage and consumer packaged goods industries, while Future 500 has convened dialogues among 30 companies, trade associations and non-governmental organizations on EPR.
Recycling Reinvented’s board includes noted environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Nestlé Waters North America’s President and CEO Kim Jeffery, Future 500 President and CEO Bill Shireman who specializes in uniting business and NGO leaders behind common ground solutions, and Conrad MacKerron of As You Sow, a nonprofit shareholder advocacy organization.
EPR also raises plenty of questions from brand owners, packaging and paper manufacturers, state and local governments, haulers and retailers about how it is different from the status quo. The details can be complicated and can get worked out, but EPR offers a potentially game-changing solution to many different issues. The increase in recycled materials through EPR will provide new opportunities to create additional green jobs and reduce our demand for virgin raw materials in packaging as seen in a recent BlueGreen Alliance report.
More environmentally conscious consumers are demanding that companies share their values, too. Perhaps most important, companies are becoming more aware that resources are limited and what they’ve traditionally thrown away has much value. With EPR in place, the job of recycling paper and packaging in the U.S. can shift from local and state government control to the industry that creates the materials, running recycling like a business instead of running it like a government. That’s a concept we can all get behind.
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.