Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws require the manufacturer of a product to be responsible for its ultimate recycling, reuse or disposal in an effort to increase recycling.
Senate bill 1185A would make an amendment to that law by making product producers responsible for end-of-product-life recycling – shifting the cost of disposal from municipalities to manufacturers. This includes product packaging, plastic wrappers and bottles, and paper products such as brochures, flyers, catalogs, booklets, telephone directories, newspapers, magazines, and paper used for writing.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Todd Kaminsky of the 9th district, with co-sponsors Michelle Hinchey, 46th district; Josephy P. Addabbo Jr., 15th district; Alessandra Biaggi, 34th district; and Jabari Brisport, 25th district. The conservation law is a companion bill expected to be introduced in the Assembly by Steve Englebright.
“We are sensitive to the need to do something about the 30 percent of our waste stream that is packaging,” said Kaminsky, also noting that he will care- fully review the newspaper industry’s concerns. “I believe that we are going to take a very hard look at the question of newspapers and magazines. It’s primarily plastic and other contaminants of paper that is what we’re concerned about; those plastics that make paper unrecyclable. There is a long history of recycling with newspaper and magazines.”
According to the bill, it will establish an extended producer responsibility program for paper and packaging, which would create a circular economy for recycling. After it passes, no producer will be allowed to sell any covered materials unless covered by a producer responsibility plan that has been approved by the New York State Department of Environ- mental Conservation.
“While I support all efforts to increase affordable and accessible methods to recycle, such methods must be balanced with what is financially and realistically feasible for all parties. I am concerned about the bill as written and the significant and unreasonable burdens it will place on ‘producers’ as defined in the legislation,” Sen. Alexis Weik said, noting that because she did not introduce or co-sponsor the legislation, she could not comment on the feasibility of making an amendment to remove newspapers. “However, I would support their removal from the legislation.”
According to the bill, the United States generates more than a quarter of a billion tons of municipal solid waste and of that waste, 33 percent is packaging and paper products. On top of that, the U.S. only recycles around 69 million tons of that waste.
As reported a number of times by this publication, local municipalities are struggling with recycling. In 2018, China declined most foreign recycled materials.
The legislation requires that producers develop a “producer liability plan” with or without the assistance of companies that provide services. This means producers, likely printers, will be required to provide widespread and convenient access to collection opportunities, out- reach and education for consumers as to the proper end-life management of the product and its materials, as well as how to prevent litter of the material. If not adhered to, fines would be administered.
Producers have the option to also band together with other similar businesses to execute a plan together.
According to Michelle Rea, executive director of the New York Press Association, neither option will be affordable or sustainable and “to inflict more pain, there is language in the legislation that prohibits companies from charging point-of-sale fees or other fees to consumers to recoup the costs of executing the liability plans.”
“While the higher mission of the bill is noble – ridding our waterways of plastic straws and bottles – lumping newspapers and magazines in with packaging products is wrong,” she said. “Newspapers are a public trust and play a much more important role in our democracy than a plastic drinking straw. Newspapers have been actively recycling and using recycled newsprint for years. Journalism is at risk and under assault – adding additional recycling burdens will result in a body blow many newspapers will be unable to absorb, and the ultimate result of this bill may be the loss of local newspapers.”
Ken Searles of Searles Graphics said the law is basically the government not being able to recycle and placing the job on the producers while overseeing the process. Still, he questioned why beverage companies were left out of the verbiage. Most likely, he said, because the companies would be able to lobby against being included in the bill.
His son and partner, Chris Searles, has also been researching the bill for some time, concerned with the verbiage and what it might mean for his family business.
“Prices are going to go up on all paper and packaging; this is a tax hike,” he said. “From our standpoint, what doesn’t make sense is that we are the only end-finished product included in the bill. The other items included are packaging and materials. Why include the most recyclable material? There are far worse polluters than paper.”
Newspaper and magazines are used from responsibly resourced farms, he added, also questioning, why now?
“The economy is devastated, especially, small businesses and local companies,” he continued.
“Taxing people’s ability to market their business when they are trying to recover from the worst economic crisis just about anyone has seen in their lifetime. Why would we do that?”
Joe Calandra, owner and vice president of Atlantic Color Corp., a local printer, also said his facility already recycles and felt that the bill would more likely hurt publishers who might be required to collect old papers for recycling.
“If this law goes through, the thing we are going to have to work out with our customers is when they come to pick up, they are also going to have to drop off [old papers],” he added.