The value of wasted recyclable consumer packaging materials in the US exceeded $11bn in 2010, according to a new report released by the environmental and social responsibility advocacy group As You Sow.
The report, titled ‘Unfinished Business: The Case for Extended Producer Responsibility for Post-Consumer Packaging’, noted that packaging consists of over 40% of the US solid waste stream, which is greater than any other category.
Shifting financial responsibility from taxpayers to producers through an ‘extended producer responsibility’ (EPR) policy is expected to bring about profits in processing used materials, reductions in carbon emissions and energy used to produce packaging as well as create new green jobs.
As You Sow senior programme director Conrad MacKerron said that Americans throw away more materials compared to other countries.
"It’s simply not good business to throw away billions of dollars of reusable resources," MacKerron added.
At least 47 countries require producers to bear some or all of the cost of end-of-life packaging management, which has always been paid for by taxpayers in the US.
The report sought companies in the US to take responsibility for post-consumer packaging as part of their ongoing sustainability policies.
EPR laws are expected to resolve the concerns identified with packaging recycling by increasing recovery rates for all post-consumer packaging, incentivising producers to reduce materials use and improve recyclability, and by creating profitable secondary materials markets.
As You Sow partnered with a group of aligned shareholders and has led engagement of major consumer goods and grocery companies to implement EPR polices.
According to the report, the recycling concerns can also be solved by providing stable revenue sources through producer fees to improve curbside recycling systems; cutting down greenhouse gases; and meeting pent up industry demand for recyclable materials.
The report concluded that a successful mandated packaging EPR programme in the US is expected to address all packaging types, and by supporting EPR laws and policies that drive aggressive collection efforts, companies can then make proposals to use higher levels of recycled content in product packaging.
This, in turn will support a circular system ensuring a stable supply of post-consumer materials to use as new feedstock.