Guest Blogs

Recycling in BC: Public Sector Accountability Meets Private Sector Know-How

The Global Product Stewardship Council will periodically invite thought leaders on product stewardship and producer responsibility to contribute guest blogs. This guest blog is by Sandy Sigmund, Vice President, Development & CMO, Encorp Pacific (Canada). Encorp Pacific (Canada) is a Global Product Stewardship Council Foundation Member. 

The province of British Columbia, in July this year, attained the highest score nationally from Extended Producer Responsibility Canada (EPR Canada) for measures making producers wholly responsible for recycling end-of-life product and packaging waste. EPR Canada ranked each jurisdiction by evaluating federal, provincial and territorial EPR policies and programs in place or pending by the end of last year.

“BC is seriously committed to the principles of reducing the amount of waste we produce,” said Terry Lake, BC’s Minister of the Environment. “We’ve worked hard for years to create policies that put responsibility fully in the hands of producers and consumers and we assess our progress continually to take stock of how we are doing and what more we can do”.

The BC Recycling Regulation, a flexible, performance-based regulatory framework within which to operate comes under the authority of the Environmental Management Act and shifts taxpayer-funded responsibility for managing end-of-life products and packaging to producers and consumers.

Not-for-profit stewardship agencies, developed by industry to collect and recycle products at end-of-life, implement industry developed and government approved plans. British Columbians divert close to 20,000 metric tonnes of electronics, 2 million litres of hazardous household waste, 40,000 tonnes of scrap tires and over 1 billion beverage containers from landfills a year. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from these programs is equivalent to removing more than 73,000 cars from BC’s roads annually.

The Stewardship Agencies of BC (SABC) emerged as a voluntary council for stewardship agencies and programs. Each regulated product’s manufacturer, distributor or brand owner develops a product stewardship plan and implements a program to collect and recycle their products through SABC.

“After more than 18 years in operation, we have demonstrated that the industry self-managed model meets or exceeds expectations of most stakeholders”, says Neil Hastie, President and CEO, Encorp (Pacific) Canada. He adds, “We recover 80% of all the beverage containers sold in BC and operate without any form of subsidy from any level of government.”

SABC members include Encorp Pacific (Canada), Brewers Distributors Limited, Electronic Products Recycling Association (EPRA), Recycle My Cell, ElectroRecycle, LightRecycle, Switch The ‘Stat, Call2Recycle, BC Used Oil Association (BCUOMA), Tire Stewardship BC (TSBC), Product Care Association, Outdoor Power Equipment Institute of Canada and the Post Consumer Pharmaceutical Stewardship Association. For more information about the SABC and the products recycled go to bcstewards.com.

Encorp Pacific (Canada), one of the largest stewardship agencies, was launched in 1994 to create a province-wide network of industry owned and operated beverage recycling depots; within 4 years 125 were established. The unique structure and flexibility of Encorp allows the agency to concentrate on managing collection and recycling programs while ensuring that stakeholder and consumer interests are addressed. Today, Encorp has a network of 180 independently owned Return It™ depots, mobile collectors, and has contracted 33 partners in transportation and 17 in processing. The Electronic Products Recycling Association (EPRA) and the BC Dairy Council (BCDC) have contracted Encorp to manage their respective collection operations by utilizing Encorp’s existing Return It™ depots.

“Each year our network of owners invest in new locations and upgrades all in keeping with our commitment to enhance the appeal and customer service for our citizens who are doing their part by returning containers for recycling”, says Neil Hastie. He adds, “Encorp combines private-sector efficiencies with a high degree of public-sector transparency and accountability. This transparency provides the public and all interested parties with information about its mission, key objectives, operational and financial performance as well as consumer awareness and educational programs.”

A driving force behind product stewardship is growth. Soon SABC, government and consumers are about to do the next big thing. Governing Boards of the 13 stewardship agencies operating in BC are anticipating the addition of packaging and printed paper to the Recycling Regulation, moving responsibility for recycling these items from municipalities to industry. Industry, municipalities and stakeholders will decide the type of program that will fit their communities, but one model may have municipalities acting as a service provider and to continue collecting through curbside recycling programs.

BC’s Stewardship agencies have demonstrated the benefits in merging public sector accountability with private sector know how, and while we welcome the kudos from EPR Canada, we hope that the Scorecard motivates all jurisdictions to our shared aspiration of fewer new landfill sites and the reduction of energy needed to produce new products from raw materials.

Sandy Sigmund is Vice President, Development & CMO, Encorp Pacific (Canada).

Global Perspective on Broader Producer Responsibility

By Russ Martin, Global Product Stewardship Council President

The GlobalPSC’s own Russ Martin recently wrote on global developments in broader producer responsibility for Sustainability Matters. The article is now available here.

How Could Local Governments Miss out on Product Stewardship?

By Russ Martin, Global Product Stewardship Council President

Russ blogs regularly on product stewardship for the Business Environment Network (BEN). This blog originally appeared on BEN and has been reposted with permission of BEN publishers. 

Extended producer responsibility (EPR) and product stewardship have long had as a fundamental purpose the shifting of physical and financial responsibility for products away from local waste management and recycling programs back to producers and consumers.

Some of our colleagues in the U.S., the Product Stewardship Institute, have estimated the potential benefits to local programs of producer responsibility at over U.S. $2 billion. These benefits include actual costs, which would be the direct financial savings to a local government of implementing an EPR program and service benefits, which is the value of the added benefits a municipality would receive if EPR were to take hold. For example, many local governments in the U.S. dry and dispose of latex paint because it is a lower priority than other household hazardous waste products. If they had the money, they would collect it for recycling.

So if benefits are supposed to accrue mainly to local programs, how might local governments miss out on EPR and product stewardship? Simply by not understanding product stewardship, how it’s intended to work or how to make the most of it. Or, they could fail to engage effectively with other stakeholders.

First, some basics. Most consumers want products to be responsibly managed when they reach end-of-life. More product stewardship schemes across a broader range of items are likely.

Businesses will want to leverage existing resources, including local government collections and infrastructure, rather than start new programs completely from scratch. Local governments that engage industry can reduce their infrastructure and consumer education costs. Transparency and accountability of services provided will be an important issue.

Recent discussions with a variety of local government officials have shown that many still don’t seem to understand some of these basics. The idea is not to get grants from the government for collecting additional products. Nor to invite product stewardship organisations to tender for collection / recycling contracts of particular products.  Rather it’s about councils forming partnerships with product stewardship organisations to provide certain services. Strong standards will be necessary, and these will affect expectations and costs for all stakeholders. Collections should be free to consumers, and in some cases this may be regulated as in the new national TV and computer recycling scheme (NB: in Australia).

In addition, the targets for the TV and computer scheme will not necessarily match up to likely volumes of materials available for collection. The first annual recycling target is 30 per cent in 2012–13, increasing progressively each year to reach 80 per cent in 2021–22.

However, we can expect a great deal of collections initially, especially with the digital switchover and a backlog of end-of-life TVs and computers spread across Australia. Then the pendulum is likely to swing back the other way before eventually stabilising in say 5-6 years. As the targets start to really kick in, industry will then be scouring for TVs and computers in order to meet their targets. The characteristics of the products in and materials out of the scheme will vary significantly during this time, which will further complicate planning, implementation and basic commercial viability.

Liable parties under the scheme are paying co-regulatory arrangements to meet their target obligations in a cost-effective way. Once the arrangements meet their liable parties’ targets, recycling above and beyond that point simply represents a cost for which funding from liable parties cannot readily be sought. Yet the scheme’s first collections in the ACT exceeded the arrangement’s annual target for that region in one month.

Public interest and engagement cannot readily be turned on and off like a tap. Industry and local governments will need to collaborate with State and Commonwealth governments on how best to manage consumer expectations while delivering meaningful outcomes.

Consistency and reliability of service to customers is important. Yet, existing co-regulatory arrangements already diverge on whether they will cover the costs for collecting and processing TVs and computers beyond their target volumes. Councils will not be able to charge consumers for TV and computer recycling, then return those products through an approved arrangement.

This means that the cost for any excess collections beyond target volumes would need to be covered by councils, state or federal governments to maintain free collections to the consumer and avoid discouraging an engaged public. This is a transitional, yet very important, issue that will need to be managed carefully as we move towards fuller industry funding of programs.

So, if you’re a local government, how do you go about making the most of product stewardship?

First, know where you stand. What items have the greatest impacts (in terms of toxicity/hazard, volumes and public concern)? What are your costs for managing end-of-life products responsibly (including education, collections, recycling, disposal of residuals, externality costs, insurance and illegal dumping clean-up costs)?

Second, know where others stand and understand their needs. What programs are already in existence? What programs are planned or could potentially be implemented?

Third, actively engage with industries, state governments and other stakeholders. Seek agreement on program details and funding for issues such as collection types, frequency and accessibility for consumers; how best to promote returns and manage community expectations; how to address material quality/contamination; education; risks, roles and responsibilities; cost allocation (and neutrality?); auditing/verification and public reporting.

The local governments that understand these factors are in a much stronger position to truly benefit from product stewardship, especially if product stewardship expands to other items such as paints, pharmaceuticals and other e-waste beyond what we’re already seeing.

Reinventing Recycling in the U.S.: The Business Case for an Extended Producer Responsibility Model

The Global Product Stewardship Council will periodically invite thought leaders on product stewardship and producer responsibility to contribute guest blogs. Our first guest blogger is Michael Washburn, Director of Sustainability at Nestlé Waters North America.

Annual U.S. recycling rates have stagnated at an unacceptable—and unsustainable—33%.[1] Every year, valuable resources continue to pile up in landfills, logistics costs continue to rise and government recycling programs face deeper fiscal insecurities. Intensified by today’s uncertain economic climate—not to mention the growing effects of climate change—it has become increasingly clear that recycling in the U.S. needs to be reinvented.

At Nestlé Waters North America, the country’s third largest beverage company, we are committed to advancing recycling policies to capture and reuse every beverage container produced. As a packaged goods company, driving a long-term recycling solution is our social and environmental responsibility. It also serves our business interests.

Recycling epitomizes the triple bottom line of “people, profit, planet” and is the cornerstone of a sustainable society. It reduces litter in our communities, saves businesses and organizations money by cutting back on energy and raw material costs, and protects the planet by conserving natural resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It also drives economic growth. For example, a recent recycling study shows that if the U.S. could increase its recycling rate to 75% by 2030, it would create 1.5 million additional jobs. All we need is a way to get from 33% to 75%.

We believe we can get there with Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging and printed paper, a model that brings the financial responsibility of recycling to industry, increasing access to curbside recycling and recycling away from home, not just for bottles, but for all product packaging. Designed using private sector efficiencies, an EPR model would increase recycling rates, lower municipal spending on recycling and ultimately, reward taxpayers with fewer costs, smaller government and a more effective recycling system in their communities. Further, EPR promises packaged goods companies increasingly reliable access to recycled materials, so we are able to produce the more sustainable products our consumers increasingly want and expect from us.

To be successful, EPR demands collaboration with a broad range of stakeholder groups, including brand owners, trade associations, private haulers, municipalities, state legislatures, environmental NGOs, retailers and more. One stakeholder group we’ve been working deeply with is Recycling Reinvented, a new nonprofit committed to increasing recycling rates in the U.S. through EPR. We also participate in a dialogue process facilitated by Future 500, a nonprofit that bridges corporations and sustainability advocates, which has brought together more than 30 organizations to talk about the best attributes of an EPR model in the United States , and how to craft and successfully pass state-level legislation. We hope to move legislation in key states in 2013.

Business success today requires constant innovation to meet 21st century sustainability challenges. By collaborating with environmental advocates, industry partners and policymakers through an EPR model, we can increase U.S. recycling rates, provide supply chain stability and sustainability and create millions of green jobs. EPR can work—we’ve seen it demonstrated in Europe and helped pilot it in Canada. The time has come to band together to make it work in the U.S.

 

Michael Washburn is the Director of Sustainability at Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA). His primary focus is working with a coalition of recycling stakeholders to advance Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging and printed paper in the United States. Michael’s work also includes building NWNA’s efforts towards innovation in energy usage and building design across its manufacturing facilities, encouraging constructive water policy initiatives and engaging with stakeholders about the environmental efforts of NWNA. Prior to NWNA, Michael held a senior position at The Wilderness Society and was Vice President of Brand Management at the Forest Stewardship Council-US. Michael holds a Ph.D. in forest policy from Penn State University and has served as an advisor to the USDA Forest Service on sustainability issues.  Michael serves on several nonprofit boards of directors and devotes significant time and energy to the fields of workplace giving and disability advocacy. 

[1] EcoWatch (May 29, 2012). Recycling Reinvented—Working with Top U.S. Industry Leaders to Bring EPR to the U.S. EcoWatch. Retrieved June 19, 2012.

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