Groups call on Walmart, P&G to “get real” on recycling – 06/05/2014

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Campaigns: Corporate Accountability, EPR for Packaging, Our Throw-Away Society, Press Releases, Recycling & Zero Waste, Source Reduction & Reuse

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

June 5, 2014

Contact:

Groups call on Walmart, P&G to “get real” on recycling
In response to Walmart’s Closed Loop Recycling loan fund announcement, public interest groups urge Walmart and other companies to support extended producer responsibility policies, where they would take responsibility for packaging waste

Today, a group of public interest organizations called on Walmart and the eight other companies involved in the recently-launched “Closed Loop Recycling” loan fund, to support proven policies to boost recycling instead, like extended producer responsibility (EPR). EPR is a policy approach that makes consumer goods companies responsible for financing the collection of packaging and meeting recycling targets. EPR shifts financial and management responsibilities for collecting and recycling packaging from local governments and taxpayers or ratepayers, to producers and consumers.

The groups are responding to the recent launch of a $100m recycling loan fund from Walmart and eight others. According to Walmart, “The aspirational goal is to divert valuable raw materials from landfill by helping to provide 100% of US consumers with access to recycling where and when they need it.” The fund aims to provide low interest loans to municipalities to advance projects that increase collection and improve recycling infrastructure.

“While $100m seems like a lot of money, it’s really just a drop in the bucket – both in terms of what it actually costs the companies, and the amount that’s actually needed to significantly boost recycling in the US,” said Matt Prindiville, Associate Director for UPSTREAM, a national public interest organization working to build a sustainable economy by addressing the root causes of waste.

“While this may help some cities finance some relatively small projects, this is not – nor should it be seen as – a game-changer,” said Prindiville. “This loan fund will do little to help achieve the stated goal to ‘provide 100% of US consumers with access to recycling where and when they need it.”

The companies involved in the recycling loan fund operate under EPR policies in most of Europe and increasingly Canada and Southeast Asia, with over one billion people living in jurisdictions where consumer goods companies pay some or all of the costs of recycling. Beverage companies abide by EPR in most container-deposit (bottle bill) states in the US.

While the same companies involved in the Closed Loop Recycling Fund have operated under EPR systems throughout Europe for many years, they have given strong resistance in the US. This policy approach would cost money and would require them to internalize the costs that packaging waste creates for society and the environment – litter, beach cleanups, solid-waste and recycling costs, wasted natural resources and energy, habitat destruction and lost opportunities to grow jobs in recycling.

“The companies involved are not seeking to take responsibility for recycling the packaging waste they create. They are not even really ponying up the money; they’re loaning it,” said Prindiville. “Unfortunately, the money promised comes with strings: that local governments will continue to clean up after their mess when the money’s all gone,”

“This is perhaps the unspoken agreement behind this raw deal – that companies bear little to no responsibility for their packaging; and that governments should continue to subsidize the management of packaging waste through municipal waste services and taxpayer dollars.”

 


Doug McMillon

Chief Executive Officer

Walmart Stores, Inc.

Bentonville, AR

RE: Closed Loop Recycling Fund

Dear Mr. McMillon,

We, the undersigned public interest organizations write to you concerning the recently launched “Closed Loop Recycling Fund,” by Walmart and eight other companies. While we acknowledge and appreciate your aspirational goal “to provide 100 percent of U.S. consumers with access to recycling where and when they need it,” we don’t believe the proposed fund will do much to achieve it.

Instead, we urge you to support extended producer responsibility (EPR) legislation, which would make your consumer goods companies responsible for financing packaging recycling and meeting recycling targets. Here’s why:

To begin, while $100 million dollars seems like a lot of money, it’s really just a drop in the bucket of what’s actually needed to significantly boost recycling in the United States. To put this number in a perspective, consider:

  • San Jose, California just spent $50 million modernizing its material recovery facility.[i]
  • Minnesota alone spends $60-70 million to fund its curbside recycling program.[ii]
  • California tax payers and local governments spend $520 million to combat litter and curtail marine debris, which is mostly packaging.[iii]

In addition, this is a loan fund and passes the buck on companies taking responsibility for packaging waste. Local governments are already saddled with projected deficits of over $100 billion dollars. They cannot afford to maintain or expand recycling infrastructure. $100 million dollars, even if it helps trigger additional investment, will not go very far. While the Closed Loop Fund may help some cities finance some relatively small projects, this is not – nor should it be seen – as a game-changer. We need you to instead invest in public policy initiatives that may cost money but make significant progress toward solving the environmental problems associated with packaging that you admittedly help create.

We urge you instead to support, extended producer responsibility (EPR) legislation, which would make your company responsible for financing packaging recycling and meeting recycling targets. It basically makes the environmental management of packaging part of the cost of doing business, like R&D and marketing, instead of pushing those costs onto towns, taxpayers and the environment. You already do this in Europe, and increasingly Canada and the rest of the developed world.

This policy approach requires you to internalize the costs that packaging waste creates for society and the environment – litter, beach cleanups, solid-waste and recycling costs, wasted natural resources and energy, lost opportunities to grow jobs in recycling, etc.

Only a few companies have been willing to embrace an authentic sustainability approach when it comes to packaging waste. If you would come forward and embrace policies that would lead to real progress – like EPR – instead of embracing half-measures – like the “Closed Loop Recycling Fund,” then we would be the first ones lining up to sing your praises.

We are interested in pursuing a dialogue with your company concerning sustainable packaging design and boosting the recycling in the United States. To reply, please contact Matt Prindiville from UPSTREAM at matt@upstreampolicy.org.

Sincerely,

Stiv Wilson, 5 Gyres, San Jose, CA

Susan Hubbard, Eureka Recycling, Minneapolis, MN

Frank Locantare, Green America, Denver, CO

Claiborne Deming, Story of Stuff Project, Oakland, CA

Robin Shneider, Texas Campaign for the Environment, Austin, TX

Matt Prindiville, UPSTREAM; Make It, Take It Campaign, Athens, GA

 


 

[i] http://waste360.com/commercial/commercial-break?page=3

[ii] http://recycling-reinvented.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Extended-Producer-Responsibility-Cost-Benefit-Study-Summary-Revised.pdf

[iii] http://www.epa.gov/region9/marine-debris/cost-w-coast-debris.html

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