Speaking Out Against Extended Producer Responsibility

SPRINGFIELD, MA | Taking an active role in opposing a proposed Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) resolution at the Chicopee City Hall in Chicopee, MA, on June 6, were Jeff Shinners, president of Pioneer Packaging and Kim Guarnaccia, director of marketing and communications at the Paperboard Packaging Council (PPC). After supporters and opponents to the resolution made their presentations to the City Council, the councilmen unanimously rejected the resolution.

The EPR resolution as presented to the Chicopee City Council proposed transferring responsibility for product and packaging disposal costs from local towns to brand owners and importers. Although the resolution suggested that electronic waste would be the initial focus of any implemented EPR program in Massachusetts, it also included packaging in its mandate.

While Jeff Shinners of Chicopee-based Pioneer Packaging supported the basic tenets of EPR, he and other local businesspeople opposed the resolution because it did not exempt paperboard packaging, which is already recycled at a high rate. “Our voluntary recycling program for paper-based packaging already works incredibly well so [paperboard packaging] should be exempt from the proposed EPR program,” explained Shinners. “I say this because the potentially expensive cost of managing and administering a complex EPR program will far outweigh the minor benefits of a point or two increase in paper recycling, an increase that will be achieved soon enough with our existing voluntary recycling program.”

There is also a concern that EPR programs will adversely affect businesses. “Any added cost for recovering recycled paper and board will no doubt be passed on to those who purchase paper—namely, packaging companies such as mine,” said Shinners. He then added, “In these tough economic times, brand owners will resist increasing their prices, opting instead to pass the financial burden of EPR fees onto their suppliers, such as packaging companies. Adding unnecessary fees to the cost of doing business will make a company such as mine less competitive and may cost both my firm and the city jobs.”

According to research conducted in 2010 by the research firm R.W. Beck, 92% of all Massachusetts residents have access to curbside recycling. The study also found that last year, a record-high 63% of paper and paperboard was recovered for recycling in the U.S., an average of 334 pounds for each man, woman, and child. In fact, by 2020, the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA) has set a voluntary recycling goal for paper of over 70%.

These types of meetings throughout the country signal a lack of understanding on the part of most urban and rural communities and their local legislative councils on the impact of knee-jerk reactions in the name of "sustainability" and "environmentalism." A recent proposal to ban paper and plastic bags in Evanston, IL, a near suburb of Chicago, is another example of the proposed passage of ill-thought-out "green" legislation.

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