Waste-Reduction Ideas Lack Producer Responsibility

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — A Senate commission recently delivered nine preliminary recommendations for addressing Rhode Island waste, including adjusting the tipping fees for dumping trash at the Central Landfill in Johnston.

The commission, however, didn't directly endorse the practice of extended producer responsibility (EPR), which levies fees on businesses or products for disposal of goods and packaging. Europe and parts of Canada cut waste significantly through EPR. The progressive practice is opposed by established business groups.

The following are the commission's nine preliminary recommendations:

Waste composition study. An analysis of what’s dumped in the Central Landfill would influence most additional policy changes. A study costs between $250,000 and $500,000. Periodic spot checks would also be needed.

Diversion of materials. Again, the committee wants more recyclables removed from the waste stream, but only supports the “continued discussion of EPR for paper and packaging.”

Municipal cap adjustment. Several financial incentives reduce trash from cities and towns: lowering the annual amount of trash that qualifies for the lowest tipping fee of $32, while increasing the recycling goals for each municipality. Other waste-reduction ideas focus on new curbside collection programs such as pay-as-you-throw and no bin, no barrel, and larger recycling containers.

Multi-unit residential. Even though it’s the law, recycling collection by apartment buildings is abysmal. To increase participation, the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC) would offer lower tipping fees if commercial haulers brought in more recyclables.

Public places. Require recycling collection at public events, such as WaterFire and Pawtucket Red Sox games. Also put more recycling bins next to public trash bins.

Partnerships. RIRRC and businesses team up with municipalities for recycling projects.

Litter & Beverage Tax. About $600,000 of the $2 million collected annually from beverage retailers pays for roadside cleanups. The rest goes into the state's general fund. “We’d like to see that money go to the purpose it was intended to go,” commission Chairman Sen. William Walaska, D-Warwick, said.

Private haulers. Require more private trash collection companies to offer recycling collection.

Partnerships. The American Institute for Packaging and the Environment (AMERIPEN) said it would consider collaborating with Rhode Island on comprehensive packaging reduction efforts. AMERIPEN represents major packagers such as Coca-Cola, Proter & Gamble and ConAgra.

The Commission to Study Producer Responsibility Models for Paper and Packaging plans to introduce a final report, with recommendations, by the end of the legislative session. Legislative proposals may have to wait until 2014 Walaska said. “Time is of the essence at this point," he said.