As regular readers know, in the past year I have come to think that the recycling programs we grew up with are a figleaf that allows maximum production of stuff which lingers in the environment forever, while shoving all costs of cleanup onto taxpayers and volunteers.
The obvious solution is to make the producer pay the cost of recycling. that would provide the economic incentive to make better products and less wasteful crap – and in a capitalist society like ours, economic incentives are the only incentives that really work.
As the Portland Press-Herald reports (story here) some folks in Maine are considering that idea:
The Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday received a briefing on similar programs – called extended producer responsibility, or EPR – in Europe and North America.
A draft bill to establish a state program is pending, but in bare terms it would function like this: The packaging material producers would establish a third-party organization that would pay fees to municipalities based on the type, amount and design of their packaging.
If municipalities dispose of readily recyclable materials, then producers would repay their costs. The fees could otherwise be spent on outreach, education and infrastructure.
Makes sense to me, although it would be painful for the companies and probably result in some products that we use disappearing, because they couldn’t justify the cost. The thing is that the cost already exists, but it’s so spread out and covered by others that we pretend it doesn’t exist.