Well…we had an incredible afternoon at the Product Stewardship State Legislative Forum yesterday!
For starters, we had a capacity crowd of over 200 people with state legislators from all over the northeastern United States and maritime Canada in attendance. In addition, we had over 100 folks from all different kinds of backgrounds including academics, solid waste officials, recycling companies, industry representatives and environmental advocates.
Our keynote speaker, Neil Hastie – a longtime EPR veteran who runs the product stewardship program for beverage containers in British Columbia – was incredible. He explained the benefits of product stewardship policies for business and the environment, and then clearly laid out the pitfalls that can result from poor design and implementation. He said if we can eliminate or mitigate the pitfalls, then we’ll have a much better chance of winning support from industry. In the end, he inspired us all, with pictures of the planet and his granddaughter, reminding us that “If not now, when?” and “If not us, then who?”
Our other speakers, ranging from Mario Laquerre from Recyc-Quebec to Chris Jackson from the Maine State Chamber of Commerce brought many different perspectives and encouraged lively discussions among attendees throughout the afternoon.
I believe we significantly helped raise the profile and dialogue on product stewardship issues in the Northeast through one of the largest forums on this topic that the United States has had to date.
Big thanks to all the speakers, our co-sponsors – the Council of State of Governments and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, and especially to Representative Melissa Walsh-Innes who put in countless hours to make the forum a great success.
Here’s my statement from yesterday.
Statement of Matt Prindiville, NRCM
Product Stewardship State Legislative Forum
Thank you Melissa. I would like to thank the Council of State Governments and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce for being such great co-sponsors. And lastly, our incredible speakers and presenters. Thank you so much. I hope you’ve learned as much as I have and that you’re leaving here inspired about the potential for product stewardship to revolutionize the way we think about “waste.”
I think you’ve heard today that we’re trying to shift out of an old paradigm that isn’t working anymore, namely having all these products with valuable, recoverable materials being disposed of in landfills or incinerators. Product stewardship policies change the paradigm: “waste” now becomes a resource. Systems and incentives are created are created for the private sector to capture those unwanted products and turn them into something new and valuable. Have you heard about the term “cradle to cradle” thinking? Well, this is what we’re talking about here.
If I could leave you all with one thought, it would be this: that together, we can do this. A spokesperson for Dell said to me recently that, “product stewardship is the right thing to do.” More and more businesses and industry sectors are getting this. So how do we do it, and how do we work together in order to accomplish this lofty goal of a truly sustainable economy? These are the questions we need to consider.
I think our recent experience in Maine around the framework legislation is a good example: we roll up our sleeves, we sit down at the table together, we listen, we learn and we collaborate. Now, some might say that this is a naïve proposition. That business interests and regulatory interests and environmental interests have a long history of being at odds with each other and that’s just the way it is.
But this is coming from a seasoned legislative veteran. I bear the scars from fighting for and helping to pass 5 first-in-the-nation product stewardship laws, all with their fair share of controversy. But through these processes, something remarkable has been built between Maine’s business community and our environmental community, that elusive and very human condition known as “trust.” And by beginning to trust each other a little bit more, we’ve opened up more opportunities to find common ground.
I fundamentally believe that by keeping the lines of communication open and doing our best to work together, we can achieve better outcomes and better public policy.
The environmental community, state legislators and agency officials need to realize that product stewardship programs are very challenging for manufacturers to initiate and operate and to work with them to design legislation that incorporates their concerns, provides flexibility and minimizes costs.
Industry needs to realize that product stewardship is the future. It’s taking hold all over the world, and we need you to help design and implement these programs and policies rather than fighting them. We need you at the table in order to make these programs work. You are the creators and innovators. You bring the best ideas to the table. If anyone can figure out how to make product stewardship work and even figure how to make it add to your bottom line, it’s you. We need to stop looking at each other as potential enemies, and instead see each other as allies in initiatives that benefit all of us: clean jobs, a growing, green sustainable economy and a healthy, thriving environment.
We know that while there are tremendous benefits for all of us from our consumer product economy, there are also real costs, costs to the environment, costs to wildlife, and costs to our health. This is the challenge that we all face. But it’s also the challenge that we can rise to. By working together, we can begin to mitigate and even eliminate those costs and carve out a new vision for the future through transforming the way we make and use things.
By having all of you here today, I feel like we’re we’ll on our way.
– Matt Prindiville, NRCM Clean Production Project Director