Onondaga County residents are diligent about recycling, but there’s a measure in the state budget before lawmakers that would make growers more responsible for product packaging. This is called Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). It has the support of agencies across the state that handle our recyclables, but have struggled to get a good price for the material. This includes the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency (OCRRA). Spokesman Will Wallak said recycling markets are still vulnerable.
“By introducing the EPR, by making the structure a little more predictable, it will be good for everyone at all levels. Producers will produce more environmentally friendly packaging materials. For consumers it will be clearer what is recyclable and what is not, and for those processing the material it will allow for a more sustainable financial structure.
Recycling markets crashed about four years ago when China stopped accepting materials from the United States. Wallak said the United States had to scramble to find new markets at home, and things have since stabilized. But OCRRA had to spend $4 million from its reserves to cover the cost of recycling. He said many proactive brand owners are already reducing waste and incorporating recycled materials into their packaging, so he predicts EPR will not result in increased costs for consumers.
“Where ERP is very well established, in provinces across Canada, Europe and Asia, research has shown that any price increase for consumers is nil or very negligible.”
In the United States, only Maine and Oregon passed similar laws last summer. Wallak said if approved here, the EPR shows great promise.
“It has been shown to significantly increase recycling rates. By making producers responsible for the end of life of their packaging, I think we will see some really good material changes and improvements; how they are recycled, what can be recycled.
Wallak said New York State already has smaller forms of producer responsibility in place, including batteries, electronics and mercury thermostats. It is not yet known whether the EPR will feature in the final state budget being debated as we speak.