Companies Join the List of Who Pays for Recycling
Unwanted packaging is like candy corn. Even in the off chance you want it, you’ll get way more than you need. Sorry candy corn lovers, but them’s the facts. In the age of online shopping, shipping is so prolific that companies like Amazon have created their own delivery teams to keep up with the demand. While it’s great for reducing the strain on local mail outposts, the downside is severe.
Useless packaging abounds by the millions of tons. If you don’t know what we’re talking about, read this. While Amazon reigns supreme as the worst offender, they aren’t alone. Each year, hundreds of millions of tons of packaging (most of which is plastic) go to waste, including bubble mailers, packing peanuts, cardboard boxes and more that end up in landfills and/or the ocean rather than being reused or recycled.
But change may be on the horizon, as a new law passed in Maine is forcing companies to take more ownership of the waste they produce.
But Isn’t It Recyclable?
Plastic is cheap and resilient. It’s super easy to mold and shape which makes for a quick, economical solution to safely shipping most items. Plus, there’s this lingering idea that plastic is recyclable. That should keep trash out of landfills right? Not quite.
Recycling isn’t cheap, and for plastic, it isn’t all that effective either. In Maine where this new law was passed, cities spend between $16-17 million a year managing their recycling programs. When you consider how much of that waste comes straight from Amazon — born in their warehouses and immediately tossed in the waste bin — we the people are basically subsidizing their business model, and that’s before you consider how less than 10% of recyclable plastic actually gets recycled.
Once again, consumers are blamed for the choices of corporations. If you’d just recycle like you’re supposed to, they say, we wouldn’t have this waste problem. Well, there’s finally a law that throws this logic back in their faces.
Making Sustainability Cool
Thanks to a this new law (which is entirely underlined for some reason??), there’s finally some accountability for these companies. The law is 18 pages long, full of legal jargon and contains some exemptions, but its overall message is clear: it’s high time that vendors shoulder this cost.
The bill requires companies to plan how to handle recycling, or otherwise hire a contractor to do it or reimburse the local municipality for handling it. Not much about the law is concrete. You won’t find hard numbers or percentages, but it’s nice to know that this will be on the planning books for some of the biggest retailers.
And since most companies don't want to spend time or money on recycling, it opens up a whole new market for recycling entrepreneurship — an industry we would love to see blossom. Nearly a dozen states have been considering similar regulations, and Oregon is about to pass its own version of the law in a few weeks. With the oil industry spending more than $200 billion on chemical and plastic manufacturing plants in the United States, it’s about time a law like this goes into effect.
Way to go, Maine! Thanks for leading the way!