where checking accounts rebuild communities
Back to homepageInstitutional ReportsSRI Financial Professionals DirectoryToolsNewsSRI Performance and TrendsAbout Us   

February 11, 2015
Corporate Responsibility for Waste Reduction Insufficient
    by Robert Kropp

As You Sow and the Natural Resources Defense Council report that the lack of strong recycling policies and insufficient practices by companies are factors in low recycling rates in the United States.

While an estimated $11.4 billion in potential recycling revenue is wasted in the US every year, recycling rates in Europe and elsewhere are considerably higher. Waste and Opportunity 2015, a new report from As You Sow and the Natural Resources Defense Council, notes that the lack of producer responsibility laws or equivalent policies is a contributing factor.

“Businesses that place substantial amounts of packaging on the US market...have used their public policy departments to fight any notion that they should take financial responsibility for recycling materials in the United States,” the report states, “even though they do so in many other countries.”

The report studies the packaging practices of three of the industry sectors most responsible for plastic packaging, the recycling rate of which is less than 14% in the US. The focus of the report is on fast food restaurants, beverage companies, and the consumer goods/grocery sector, “because of the substantial waste associated with a business model in which food is most often taken off-premises in single-use containers.”

Forty-seven companies were analyzed; “none,” the report found, “are doing enough to make their packaging more sustainable.” An analysis of street litter in four Bay Area cities found that half was from fast food restaurants; Starbucks is the only company in the sector to have committed to front of house recycling. In the beverage sector, the use of non-recyclable packaging of children's drinks, such as Capri Sun from Kraft, is on the increase; furthermore, “most brands support neither a container deposit nor an EPR (extended producer responsibility) scheme to boost recycling.”

And in the consumer packaged goods and grocery sector, “Use of flexible packaging is growing swiftly, with no apparent strategy by companies that produce it or brands that use it to make it recyclable.”

An appendix to the 62-page report, containing comments from the companies themselves, proves illuminating. Despite the fact that most of the companies already comply with EPR regulations in Europe and elsewhere—which certainly contribute to markedly higher recycling rates—only two companies quoted in the report--Nestle Waters and New Belgium Brewing--indicated support for such regulations in the US. Instead, a consortium of major companies launched the Closed Loop Fund, a program which plans initial investments amounting to $100 million that will be distributed to municipalities in the form of zero-interest and low-interest loans.

But as Matt Prindiville of Upstream wrote, “the amounts of corporate money in these 'public-private partnerships' are insignificant when compared to the amounts of money that taxpayers and ratepayers pay to clean up after them.”

“The QSR, beverage, and consumer packaged goods (CPG) sectors need to increase engagement on the recycling of postconsumer packaging,” the report concludes. “They must become actively involved in developing a consensus on new, state-level producer responsibility mandates or equivalent policies that will spread a measure of responsibility fairly among brands placing materials on the market; this will result in significant increases in container and packaging recycling rates.”

Also, “A government agency or multilateral stakeholder group with buy-in from the business and environmental communities needs to develop a blueprint for—and credible estimate of the total cost of—boosting U.S. recycling rates to 75 percent or beyond.”

“These companies have not sufficiently prioritized packaging source reduction, recyclability, compostability, recycled content, and recycling policies” report author Conrad MacKerron of As You Sow said. “Increased attention to these key attributes of packaging sustainability would result in more efficient utilization of postconsumer packaging, higher US recycling rates, reduced ocean plastic pollution, and new green recycling jobs.”


| Reports | SRI Financial Professionals Directory | Tools | News | SRI Performance and Trends | About Us | Contact
© SRI World Group, Inc. - All rights reserved
Terms of use - Privacy Policy - OneReportTM Network