Government Mandates Vs. Private Sector Recycling Efforts: Carpet and Rug Institute’s Jennifer Mendez discusses the differencesIn an article that appears in the November/December, 2010 edition of Inside ALEC, the professional journal of the American Legislative Exchange Council, Carpet and Rug Institute Director of Government Affairs Jennifer Mendez discusses the current situation and future outlook for extended producer responsibility legislation in states around the U.S.
According to its website, ALEC is a “nonpartisan public-private partnership of America's state legislators, members of the private sector, the federal government, and general public.” Jennifer is the current chair of ALEC’s Environmental Health & Regulation Subcommittee and is a member of ALEC’s Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force. (see related blog posts Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR): Carpet & CARE and Carpet Industry, Extended Producer Responsibility, CRI Legislative Update)
In her article, titled, A Tax in Sheep’s Clothing - How Extended Producer Responsibility Mandates Can Hurt Consumers and Business [see page 12], Jennifer first explains that extended producer responsibility (EPR) legislation (sometimes called product stewardship or take-back programs) is an approach to environmental protection that calls on those in the product lifecycle—manufacturers, retailers, users, and disposers— to share responsibility for reducing the environmental impacts of products.
EPR legislation is currently being proposed in one form or another in several states, and the state of California, in its recent session of the state legislature, passed the nation’s first-ever EPR bill that is specific for carpet. The California law, called AB 2398, is aimed at increasing the landfill diversion and recycling of postconsumer carpet generated in California. Beginning July 1, 2011, carpet manufacturers will add an assessment of $0.05 per square yard on the purchase price of ALL carpet sold in California. Dealers and retailers must make this assessment visible on all invoices.
Keeping the responsibility for product end-of-life management in the hands of the private sector whenever possible is the main point Mendez makes in her article. She comments on several states that have either passed or are in the process of considering EPR “framework legislation”, broad-reaching, open-ended bills that signal the state’s intention to regulate more aggressively in the future.
“Government directed Framework Product Stewardship (PS) or EPR programs use a one-size fits all approach to extended producer responsibility by creating state government bureaucracies and mandated program elements… Broad ‘Framework EPR Programs’ as currently developed are open-ended, unclear, and most likely will increase state cost for management by state agencies, which in turn adds costs to the consumers and manufacturers. State agencies would bear the cost to study and prioritize products, review and approve plans and reports and to audit for compliance and enforcement. Consumers will pay more for products and manufacturers will be forced to finance government-mandated programs, and of course the cost of doing so will be passed on to the consumers who purchase the products.”
The article suggests that, as an alternative to legislative mandates, states encourage market-based solutions to product stewardship, especially for those products which don’t pose a toxic hazard to the environment. A number of industries, including the carpet industry, already have voluntary recycling programs in place (See related blog posts about the successful product stewardship efforts of the Carpet America Recovery Effort). The carpet industry is one of several environmentally proactive industries that have increased their recycling efforts, not because of mandates, but because it was the best choice from a business sense. Market-driven recycling programs are the most efficient means of collecting and reusing product materials at the end of those products’ useful life-cycles.
“In a struggling economy, [government mandated EPR programs] do not encourage product makers to locate, expand, or re-invest in any state or create jobs. Market-driven programs are the key to addressing end-of-life collection and job creation. From batteries to motor vehicles to carpet, these industry programs have served an essential role in providing sustainable solutions for concerns about waste.”
Thank you, Jennifer.