Citizens taking action ~ Vancouver, Lower Mainland, and beyond.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A challenge

The provincial government just announced that two more product categories are going to come under the recycling regulation.
Producers of mercury containing products, notably the CFL lamps that are now flooding the market, are going to have to present a business plan for taking back burned out bulbs from consumers. (Major retailers are already taking back CFLs.)

And a broader range of electronic equipment is going to be collected back through programs provided by their producers, like the program for TVs and computer recycling system launched last August. We'll be able to dispose of defunct stereos, cellphones and other hand-held devices in programs paid for by producers and scrutinized by the government.

These programs are the envy of other jurisdictions. In most places, programs for taking back and recycling throw-away products and packaging are provided at public expense.

The purpose of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is to stimulate better product design and marketing systems by shifting the cost of waste back onto those with control over product design.

BC is one of the world leaders in EPR. During the 1990s those of us who were involved in pushing for it had a lot of hope that we had found a way to turn the waste tide.

Throw-away products and packaging comprise three-quarters of everything we throw away. Biodegradable materials like food and yard waste the remaining quarter. We thought we had found the formula for Zero Waste. Zero Waste = EPR + composting.

It makes good sense to make producers take back toxic products. But how about EPR for the high-volume trash that has filled our landfills prematurely? Those huge detergent bottles, for instance. Carpeting. Unrepairable furniture?
If we didn't create such huge haysacks of garbage, the needles would be easier to find.

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