Hi Dan ~
I have the sense that we're closing a circle.
Brenda Platt asked a really insightful question at a meeting ten years ago or
so. She asked what could be done to prevent EPR taking the form of
vertical-integration. You can see the potential: producers set up captive
companies to control the supply of their discards. We saw it with Lexmark in
US. We see it today with Encorp Pacific here in BC.
A Canadian analyst in Ontario,
Usman Valiante, has written about how EPR is giving rise to
monopolistic/monopsonistic companies, which is arguably less healthy than the
free market competition for discards. If you haven't read Usmans's stuff on
used oil, tires, etc. I'll try to find weblinks.
What we're starting to work on here in BC, now that we have EPR legislation in
place, is to find tools that local governments and others can use to encourage
the emergence of companies in local communities that can provide creative
responses to the opportunity offered by EPR. There's going to be an interesting
session at the Recycling Council's conference next week on this topic. I'll be
attending with Paul and I'll report back.
That's why it's so heart-breaking when elected officials listen to their staff,
who are vested in wasting, rather than listening to local businesses who could
grow the tax base by offering alternatives.
At 12:43 PM 6/20/2008, Dan Knapp wrote:
Thanks for the
Congratulations! This will be a wonderful test of the Product Policy
Institute's overall theory of how to get to Zero Waste. Good luck to you
as you try to slay the incinerator dragon(s) using EPR as your sword.
We recyclers beat our incinerator in 1982 by going to the voters with an
initiative and the slogan "Give Recycling a Chance!" I know
from Australian and New
Zealand experience that parliamentary
systems have nothing comparable to the voter initiative. Probably Canada is
similar. It's too bad, because you can use the voter initiative to bypass
elected officials and make law directly. We do it all the time here in California.
Even the threat of an initiative can make law. That's how Berkeley's zero waste
ordinance was passed. A Zero Waste Initiative had been written and was
getting ready for launch, but the Mayor and Council heard about it and passed
it on the consent calendar at a regular City Council meeting.
On the other hand, you can pitch the issue as resource conservation versus
resource destruction. We did that to great effect here, as our slogan
implies, and we helped the public defeat at least 8 more incinerators in the
Bay Area during the 1980's. Materials recovery enterprises led the fight
against the incinerator in Berkeley;
we said it was unfair competition for the discard supply that we wanted access
to in order to grow our businesses. We said the huge upfront capital cost
would force limits on us, and might even compel government to put us out of
business so they could keep the incinerator going to pay off the
Sure enough, when the voters said no to the incinerator option, all sorts of
recycling businesses grew and proliferated and differentiated into an
interlocking industry of niche operators that is currently very powerful and a
The Product Policy Institute's view of recycling as a subtle way to enable
wasting might get you in logical trouble here.
In my humble opinion, after Annie and Paul depart you need to ask some
experienced large-volume hands-on recyclers to come in and make the case that
clean reuse, recycling, and composting is the conservative course for Vancouver to follow, not
wasting by burning.
Urban Ore, Inc., a reuse and recycling business since 1980