MY VIEW

Packaging policy needs to be done right

By REBEKAH CRESHKOFF
Posted 3/29/22

Volunteers will soon be scouring our region for litter, much of it single-use packaging. But wouldn’t it be better if less trash escaped into the environment in the first place?

That’s …

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MY VIEW

Packaging policy needs to be done right

Posted

Volunteers will soon be scouring our region for litter, much of it single-use packaging. But wouldn’t it be better if less trash escaped into the environment in the first place?

That’s the goal behind a bright idea with a boring name—Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)—which seeks to make companies financially responsible for mitigating the environmental impacts of their products.

The New York State Legislature now has a couple of EPR proposals before it as part of the state budget, which must be finalized by April 1. Both address packaging, which makes up nearly 30 percent of the waste stream. Much of that packaging is unrecyclable and contributes to the 14 million tons of plastics that enter our oceans every year.

These industry-backed proposals are seriously flawed. They would rely on packaging companies to regulate themselves, with no accountability to the legislature or the public.

In addition, these proposals define “recycling” to permit the incineration of plastics, thereby transferring our landfills to the sky. They also dispense with clear and binding requirements to reduce packaging and achieve higher recycling rates, and fail to include the phaseout of toxic chemicals in packaging.

A better blueprint is on the horizon. As of press time, Assemblymember Steve Englebright was working on a strong bill for an EPR program that substantially reduces packaging—especially plastic packaging—and sets mandatory standards for waste reduction and recycling. He’ll also propose expanding and updating the 40-year-old Bottle Bill deposit law.

Together, these initiatives will substantially reduce the financial burden of recycling programs on municipalities, decrease solid waste pollution and extend the life of municipal landfills.

EPR is a policy decision, not a state spending decision, and has no place in the budget. I urge Assemblymember Aileen Gunther to oppose including EPR for packaging as part of the budget and to instead support Assemblymember Englebright’s EPR bill and expanded Bottle Bill during the regular legislative session.

New York readers, if you are among the 80 percent of voters who want action taken to reduce single-use plastics, please go and do likewise. You can reach your assemblymember at 518/455-4100.

Rebekah Creshkoff lives in Callicoon, NY.

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