Is the $236 Billion Recycling Sector Threatened by a Hostile Takeover?

Date: 8 Jul 2013 | posted in: Press Release, waste - zero waste, Waste to Wealth | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Contact: Neil Seldman
Phone:  202-898-1610 x 210

Washington, DC – For decades the US recycling movement has fought garbage incinerators that threatened to smother it in its infancy.  Indeed, recycling is now a $236 billion industry in large part because of the success of a broad grassroots movement in halting the construction of hundreds of new incinerators.  But, according to a policy review by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, the specter of a revived incineration industry is again threatening the recycling industry and, ironically, this threat is being enabled by the application of new environmental strategy intended to increase re-use and recycling: Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).  In British Columbia, for example, the EPR program has embraced the construction of three new incinerators.

EPR requires manufacturers and distributors to take direct responsibility for the proper disposal of their products and packaging. “EPR is an important concept,” says Dr. Neil Seldman, Director of the Waste to Wealth Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, “but by putting control of the waste stream in the hands of global corporations it undermines the local network of decision-makers and entrepreneurs that is the reason there is a significant recycling industry.”

“Corporations are driven to lower costs, not to maximize recycling”, says Seldman. “And this has led in a growing number of cases, for them to propose incinerators despite their potential impact on local recycling networks.”

ILSR is the leading group calling for EPR policies to not usurp local decision making.  EPR policies should not hinder local government from emphasizing reuse over recycling, encouraging working partnerships between manufacturers and local jurisdictions, prohibiting monopolies by industrial stewards boards, allowing fee for service by reuse and recycling companies, and adopting non-incineration plans.

In the policy review, Seldman identifies positive EPR regulations such as the Illinois e-scrap system that encourages repair and reuse; and poorly designed EPR laws such as the Pennsylvania e-scrap system that actually raises the cost to local governments for handling this material. He explores the potential impacts of mattress EPR laws and pending legislation in New England and California.

For almost 40 years ILSR has been at the forefront of the effort to reduce the waste stream through the 5 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot, Redesign.  ILSR has consulted with more than 50 cities and counties on how to maximize the economic development value extracted from their waste stream and with more than 100 community groups on policies that can enable recycling.

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Neil Seldman

Neil Seldman, Ph.D, directs the Recycling and Economic Growth Initiative. He specializes in helping cities and businesses recover increasing amounts of materials from the waste stream and add value to the local economy through new processing and manufacturing facilities. He is a co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and is a member of ILSR's Board of Directors.

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