Businesses that package their own brands are facing increased pressure in Rhode Island to take more responsibility, including more of the financial burden, for reducing, recycling and disposing of packaging materials.
The pressure is coming on two fronts – land and water.
On the water side, Rep. Donna Walsh, D-Charlestown, introduced legislation Jan. 29 intended to reduce marine debris and increase recycling in the state. However, the bill is not actually all about debris in the water.
“Eighty percent of marine debris comes from the land,” said Jamie Rhodes, Rhode Island director of Clean Water Action.
The legislation proposes establishment of an organization managed and financed by the packaging producers, called a producer-responsibility organization, to oversee recycling and disposal.
The simplest way to define a producer is basically, if your name is on it, it’s yours.
So, for example, Coca Cola would be responsible for bottles in Rhode Island, not the convenience store that sells it, Rhodes said. But, if a tea imported from China is distributed by a U.S. company, which is often named on the label, the American company would have responsibility for disposing of the packaging.
The legislation proposes to take the responsibility and cost of collection and recycling of packaging off cash-strapped cities and towns, Rhodes said.
Manufacturers facing an assessment based on sales of their branded products would have a vested interest in efficient and cost-saving recycling measures, Rhodes said.
The second source of pressure is the Senate Commission to Study Producer Responsibility Models for Paper and Packing, which began work in November, has been holding hearings, and is expected to release its findings in March.
That group is studying a wide range of options to cut down on packaging and emphasize producer responsibility, said Rhodes, who is a member of the commission. Having manufacturers share costs and responsibility with municipalities is among options being studied, as well as more focused use of the existing litter and beverage tax, he said.