Plastic waste is a huge problem across the world and is largely responsible for the pollution of natural environments and the spread and ingestion of microplastics in virtually every corner of the globe. So many products that we use in our daily lives are either made of plastic or packaged with plastic. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of that plastic actually gets recycled, whether in products or packaging.
The plastic that doesn’t get recycled either ends up in landfills where it contaminates the atmosphere, soil, and water, or it gets incinerated, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Plastic waste commonly ends up polluting natural environments, like the ocean, when it is littered or not disposed of properly. Plastic containers themselves can be carried by water currents, but even containers hundreds of miles away shed microplastics as they break down and these eventually reach oceans and lakes.
And of all the countries that contribute to the plastic waste problem, the U.S. is one of the most responsible, with nearly 40 million tons of plastic waste produced annually. However, plastic waste is not the only problem. All product and packaging materials, including plastic, glass, aluminum, paper, and packaging foam, contribute to the growing waste problem.
Producers and Manufacturers are Primary Contributors to Waste and Pollution
More than 85 million tons of solid waste generated in the U.S. comes from packaging and paper products (PPP). And while you could say that this is due to the number of products that customers buy and consume, it is ultimately the manufacturers and producers that create these products and packaging in the first place.
Unfortunately, only about half of consumer product packaging actually gets recycled. And just like plastic waste, PPP that isn’t recycled ends up in landfills, incinerated, or polluting natural environments.
The problem with PPP waste is that, though manufacturers and producers introduce it into the public realm, consumers and local disposal and recycling facilities have carried the brunt of the responsibility to properly dispose of it. But individuals and recycling facilities only have so many resources at their disposal, whereas large corporations and businesses have the means to make bigger changes to make a bigger impact.
Local governments are forced to create infrastructure and plan for better disposal and recycling programs to compensate for the growing waste problem, but those costs are ultimately funded by consumers through taxes and user fees. This is why producers must start being held accountable for the waste they generate and be part of the solution.
It is not sustainable for the burden to continue to fall on local governments and individual consumers. Both have been working on reducing plastic waste for years but the problem continues to grow and accelerate with modern society. This is where extended producer responsibility (EPR) comes into play.
Extended Producer Responsibility Laws
EPR is a term used to describe new laws and mandates that are starting to be put into place to hold manufacturers and brands accountable for the waste generated from their products and packaging. This includes the entire life cycle of a product, including takeback, recycling, and final disposal.
In the past, producers have not had much incentive to care about what happened to their products at the end of their life cycle or the amount of waste they generated. Now, however, with EPR laws, manufacturers are being forced to pay more attention to what materials they are using in the first place, where their products end up, and how they are disposed of once they are no longer of use.
This is done by making them pay fees corresponding to the amount and recyclability of their waste or by making them pay for the cost of collecting and recycling or disposing of their products. The intention is that the fees will incentivize manufacturers to prioritize reducing packaging and to only use materials that are easily and widely recyclable in their products and packaging. The fees generated would be used toward improving recycling infrastructure and making recycling available to every household and business. Currently, only a few states have implemented EPR laws, such as California, Maine and Oregon, but the hope is that more state governments will follow suit, especially once the benefits become more apparent.
The Benefits of EPR
As EPR is still relatively new, there is not a ton of evidence yet to show how much it can help to reduce the amount of waste that is generated and recycled. And strong regulations and monitoring may need to go into effect before companies take their responsibilities seriously for a big enough impact to be seen. Still, there are obvious benefits that can already be seen, including:
- Funding from producers to better support recovery, recycling, and disposal programs
- More consistent and reliable systems that enable states and local municipalities to improve strategic recycling planning and initiatives
- More investment in the end-markets and recycling infrastructure
- Improved performance measures and incentives
- And overall, removing the burden from consumers only and sharing it with producers and manufacturers, because choices in materials and usage are at the center of creating a circular economy for recyclable waste.
The Polly Products Difference
At Polly Products, we already take the growing waste problem seriously. We not only have a ‘take-back program’ to ensure our products don’t get landfilled, but our products are made from 100% recycled materials in the first place. This means we use existing plastic products such as milk jugs to create our products, which keeps plastic out of landfills and ensures we don’t need new plastics to be created to make our products. Polly Products had EPR before it was cool!
The specific recycled plastic material we use, HDPE, is also one of the safest plastic materials, and it is highly reusable and recyclable, which means at the end of our products’ lifespan, they can again be recycled and reused for other purposes, further reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills or polluting our environment.
We maintain the highest standards for ecological conservation in both our business practices and our product development. Furthermore, our products use zero formaldehyde, which can be found in other recycled plastic products, and we offer a 20-year warranty that beats out most competitors.
Located in rural Michigan, we are a team that shares humble values and believes in delivering quality products. We proudly supply environmentally responsible outdoor furniture, 100% made and assembled in the USA. Click here to learn more about our green promise and how Polly Products is making a difference.