A report released yesterday claims that the United States throws away billions of dollars of reusable resources every year - $11.4 billion to be exact.
Of the total solid waste coming out of our country, more than 40 percent is made up of unnecessary packaging. And most of that packaging that we typically throw away is recyclable. This is especially problematic as raw materials like petroleum, fiber, and minerals used in the production of consumer packaging become scarce resources.
Interestingly, As You Sow
, the nonprofit that produced the report, offers a new framework for dealing with our problems when it comes to how much trash this country produces and subsequently dumps into landfills, oceans and elsewhere: Make the producers pay.
As You Sow is advocating for a shift away from taxpayer
responsibility when it comes to paying for our junk. Instead, the report
suggests, the folks manufacturing that junk should figure out how to
put out products with less packaging or be left to foot the bill on what
to do with the excess garbage.
The proposed policy promotes "extended producer responsibility." Essentially, this means the producers will be expected to process used materials which would reduce carbon emissions and the energy we expend producing useless packaging. The ultimate goal is to phase out the use of non-recyclable packaging.
Plus, it would create thousands of new, green jobs in collecting and processing recyclable waste byproducts, the group says.
As You Sow's Conrad MacKerron points out that the United States throws away more material than any other country in the world. "In an age of declining natural resources," he warns, "such waste is now an indicator of inefficient use of valuable raw materials and market failure."
By transferring the brunt of the responsibility for post-consumer packaging onto producers themselves instead of using taxpayer dollars, we'd be following in the footsteps of at least 47 other countries that require companies to bear some if not all of the total cost of packaging management.Follow us on Twitter @TheSnitchSF and @SFWeekly