What would you say if I told you that consumer product manufacturers are teaming up with local solid waste officials to eliminate the concept of “trash” altogether?
Does that sound like an eco-pipe dream?
Well, it’s not. Right here in Maine, electronics manufacturers have already set up and are financing collection and recycling programs for unwanted television sets, computers, monitors, cell phones, mercury-containing light bulbs and more.
The goal of these programs is to divert these products from landfills and incinerators and get them into recycling operations where they can be broken down and turned into new products.
While, Maine’s been on the cutting edge of this policy approach known as product stewardship (or extended producer responsibility) in the United States, we’re well behind places like the European Union and Canada, which are implementing stewardship plans to get pretty much everything you can think of out of the waste stream and into recycling operations.
And, here’s the kicker – it’s all done by private companies and the costs are incorporated into the price of the product, instead of left to taxpayers and local governments to figure out what to do with all the unwanted stuff.
Pretty soon, we won’t be talking about “solid waste” policy anymore. We’ll be talking about “sustainable materials” policy, and that, my friends, is a heck of a lot more exciting and truly has the potential to revolutionize the way we manufacture, use and dispose of consumer products. Rather than designing products for disposal, manufacturers will now have the incentives to design their products – and packaging – for their next uses, and will create the systems to capture those unwanted products and turn them into something new and valuable.
If all this sounds exciting to you, then you need to join us in Portland, Tuesday, August 17th for “The Product Stewardship State Legislative Forum: How Business and States are Turning Today’s Trash into Tomorrow’s Products.”
This free forum, taking place in conjunction with the Council of State Governments’ Annual Eastern Regional Conference and sponsored by NRCM and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, is an exciting opportunity to learn about how product stewardship is sweeping Maine and the nation and what it means for you, your business, local solid waste district, and our environment.
Hope to see you there!
NRCM Clean Production Project Director