The New Green: Changing the economic system
Published: Friday, September 7, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 7, 2012 00:09
One way of achieving this goal is by promoting Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policies. The idea behind EPR is to make manufacturers responsible for the entire lifecycle of their product, meaning that even after the product is sold the company is responsible for any waste and pollution that the product generates. For example, Germany’s Packaging Ordinance of 1991 holds producers responsible for packaging wastes associated with their products. As a direct result of the ordinance, packaging consumption decreased by about one million tons in four years. In a capitalist economic system, EPR would have tremendous benefits for the environment, as companies would suddenly be competing to minimize their pollution and optimize their recycling – not out of their own hippy-dippy environmental awareness, but because it affects their bottom line. Taxpayers would benefit as well, as they would no longer be footing the bill for waste management costs. Some state legislatures in the U.S. have begun to implement EPR frameworks, but there have yet to be any comprehensive EPR laws that truly hold manufacturers responsible. There is tremendous room for growth in this area. According to the Product Policy Institute, the U.S.’s current consumer recycling rate of 48 percent is embarrassingly low compared to European nations with mature EPR policies, which recycle more than 70 percent. Increasing the U.S. recycling rate to 75 percent would not only alleviate public taxes and help the environment, but would also create 1.5 million new jobs.