Nonprofit’s Report Suggests Reframing Approach to Trash

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July 19, 2012; Source: SF Weekly

For the past 20 years, the San Francisco-based nonprofit As You Sow has advocated “environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building, and innovative legal strategies.” A new report from As You Sow adds a new strategy along those lines to the list. The report, “Unfinished Business: The Case for Extended Responsibility for Post-Consumer Packaging,” argues for moving responsibility for the junk piling up in our landfills away from taxpayers and local governments and to the companies that package their products in such materials in the first place. Doing so, As You Sow contends, would help in “creating incentives for producers to reduce the amount of packaging they create, increasing packaging recycling rates, providing revenue to improve recycling systems, and reducing carbon and energy use.”

As You Sow estimates that more than $11 billion worth of materials are wasted in the U.S. each year, breaking that figure down further with this handy infographic:


Perhaps recognizing that the environmental benefit of recycling more of these materials may not hold sway in some circles, As You Sow emphasizes that initiatives to turn this $11 billion of waste into usable recycled goods could generate both profits and sustainable jobs. Particularly in the midst of an election season in which jobs, economic development and environmental stewardship are all likely to be campaign issues, this part of As You Sow’s proposal should be a slam dunk. As to its suggestion that companies inherit the responsibility for their non-biodegradable packaging in our landfills, such a proposal sounds good to us, but we think implementing it would be difficult, particularly given the amount of that packaging that originates in China and other countries. –Mike Keefe-Feldman