Spare Yourself the Guilt Trip This Earth Day — It’s Plastic Makers That Need to Clean Up Their Act

By  Courtney Lindwall

More and more states are looking to pass a new kind of recycling law that makes manufacturers foot the bill for cleaning up the waste created by their products.

And yet, nearly half a century later, the U.S. still produces more than 35 million tons of plastic annually, and sends more and more of it into our oceans, lakes, soils and bodies.

Clearly, something isn’t working, but as a consumer, I’m sick of the weight of those millions of tons of trash falling squarely on consumers’ shoulders. While I’ll continue to do my part, it’s high time that the companies profiting from all this waste also step up and help us deal with their ever-growing footprint on our planet.

An investigation last year by NPR and PBS confirmed that polluting industries have long relied on recycling as a greenwashing scapegoat. If the public came to view recycling as a panacea for sky-high plastic consumption, manufacturers — as well as the oil and gas companies that sell the raw materials that make up plastics — bet they could continue deluging the market with their products.

There are currently no laws that require manufacturers to help pay for expensive recycling programs or make the process easier, but a promising trend is emerging. Earlier this year, New York legislators Todd Kaminsky and Steven Englebright proposed a bill — the “Extended Producer Responsibility Act” — that would make manufacturers in the state responsible for the disposal of their products.

Other laws exist in some states for hazardous wastes, such as electronics, car batteries, paint and pesticide containers. Paint manufacturers in nearly a dozen states, for example, must manage easy-access recycling drop-off sites for leftover paint. Those laws have so far kept more than 16 million gallons of paint from contaminating the environment. But for the first time, manufacturers could soon be on the hook for much broader categories of trash — including everyday paper, metal, glass and plastic packaging — by paying fees to the municipalities that run waste management systems. In addition to New York, the states of California, Washington and Colorado also currently have such bills in the works.

“The New York bill would be a foundation on which a modern, more sustainable waste management system could be built,” says NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) waste expert Eric Goldstein.

In New York City alone, the proposed legislation would cover an estimated 50% of the municipal waste stream. Importantly, it would funnel millions of dollars into the state’s beleaguered recycling programs. This would free up funds to hire more workers and modernize sorting equipment while also allowing cities to re-allocate their previous recycling budgets toward other important services, such as education, public parks and mass transit.



1 thought on “Spare Yourself the Guilt Trip This Earth Day — It’s Plastic Makers That Need to Clean Up Their Act

  1. I don’t like overuse of plastic, and applaud efforts to reduce its use, but I don’t like the four levels of government that are in bed with the plastics manufacturers, either. No. More legislation will only manufacture more government power over the people and more bureaucracy funded by the taxpayers who will then be paying for more government and more concessions to GoverCorp.

    As long as we are being subjected to the GoverCorp media blitz over this trumped up COVID-19 panic-demic, the plastics manufacturers (and the oil industry that supplies the plastics manufacturers) are making a “killing” in short-term profits and long term costs to humanity and all other life forms on the planet.

    Government has been a powerful contributor to the problem since the beginning of the so-called “industrial age” in the early 1800s. Does anyone really think the hens are safe when the fox guards the door?


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