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RE: [greenyes] Producer responsibility

The question is: should unclaimed deposits go to the state to fund environmental programs?
My answer was: No.

If the beverage brand-owner achieves a respectable recovery rate for its containes (say, 85%) then I'm OK with the unclaimed deposits staying in their system to help fund the system (there are costs of collecting and recycling containers that the revenues from selling the material can't cover).

If the beverage brand-owner FAILS to achieve the respectable rate, the pool of unclaimed deposits is large and arguably should not go back to the brand-owner. The Jeffords bottle bill that a bunch of us worked on had language that would revert the unclaimed deposits to the CITIES AND TOWNS who actually picked up the containers that didn't get returned for refunds.

The problem with both these scenarios is that both parties -- beverage brand-owners and local governments -- can have a vested interest in KEEPING RETURNS LOW when they have access to unclaimed deposits.

Clearly, the goal (for the environment and for fairness) is to GET AND KEEP RETURNS HIGH. This can only be done, as far as I can tell by SETTING THE BAR: the bottle bill must specify a mandatory return rate and then the government must enforce it.

Believe me this gets complicated. In BC refillable glass beer bottles have a very high rate of return (approaching 97%) while TetraPak drink boxes have a very low rate of return (somewhere around 36% last time I looked). Needless to say, there is a HUGE pool of unclaimed nickels on TetraPaks. I nag the government about this every chance I get, but they waffle and say: well. the OVERALL return rate is 75% and that's pretty good ...... (even though the law says it is supposed to be 85%)

At the end of the day, I find that governments are just about as hard to pin down as corporations. That's one reason I am wary of handing over all those unclaimed nickels to government.

The other reason is that it violates the spirit of EPR. EPR is about giving the problem back to producers and consumers to solve -- and then holding them accountable if they don't. Deep down I think the beverage brand-owners are likely to come up with more creative ways to get their containers back than either the state or local governments. I think government's "core competence" is setting the standard and enforcing compliance -- industry's core competence is dreaming up the better mouse trap.


At 04:07 PM 2/16/2004, Eric Lombardi wrote:
Hi all,

Yes, I want to ask both Alex and Helen the obvious question ... what is
your proposal then?


Eric Lombardi
Executive Director
Eco-Cycle, Inc
Boulder, CO

-----Original Message-----
From: CUYLER Alex D [mailto:Alex.D.CUYLER@no.address]
Sent: Friday, February 13, 2004 4:02 PM
To: greenyes@no.address
Subject: [greenyes] Producer responsibility

As Paul Hawken has tried to get us to understand: we have to get the
industrial system to clean up after itself, not clean up after it.

I'm among the 14% who don't think beverage producers should be taxed to
clean up after environmental problems that they did not create.

Hi Helen: I read what you write with great interest. I've copied two
quotes from posts you made today on different subjects, above. I'm
confused, frankly. Beverage producers do indeed create environmental
problems by utilizing difficult to recycle container designs, by
the amount of recycled content they are willing to use, and by opposing
container return legislation. If we don't utilize taxes to get industry
clean up after themselves, what tools do you suggest we use? Thanks.--

Alex Cuyler
Recycling and Solid Waste Specialist
City of Eugene Planning and Development Department
phone: (541) 682-6830
fax: (541) 682-6806

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