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WASTE WATCHERS BLOG

Helping businesses improve their waste diversion & recycling efforts, one post at a time!

What is Extended Producer Responsibility?

Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is finding acceptance. Read why some companies are embracing this principle, why others aren't, and how your company might apply this concept to its business practices to garner results.

This post was originally published by Shelby Bell in 2020 and has been updated. America has a bit of a problem. In 2020, the EPA set its first-ever National Recycling Goal, aiming to achieve a 50% overall (all-material) recycling rate by 2030. The issue, however, is that since 2005, our progress in that arena has been stagnant. The U.S. has never topped a 35% national recycling rate, and rampant “wishcycling”—the process of adding an item to your recycling bin without knowing if it’s actually recyclable—has led to overall contamination rates soaring over 25%. It’s a problem as complex as, say, your standard juice box. Juice boxes are constructed with three to six layers of paper, plastic, and aluminum, plus a plastic straw wrapped in plastic film affixed to the side with a glob of glue. They are very hard to recycle. As is the nature of big problems in the United States, there has been more than one opinion on how best to tackle tricky recycling challenges (like juice boxes) within the country’s inefficient recycling system. And one of the most hotly debated topics revolves around determining who’s really responsible for making it work. In 2021, with sustainability and environmentalism at the forefront of both consumer and business conversations, there’s a growing movement that believes businesses should be held accountable for their products through product stewardship, a concept known as extended producer responsibility (commonly shortened to “EPR”). Through corporate governance, regulation, and the influence of the consumer, EPR may have a major impact on how both businesses and the waste industry operate for decades to come. But it’s no magic pill, and knowing the concept’s pros and cons is essential for sustainable decisions to come.

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10 Environmental & Sustainability Initiatives to Know This Year

In this post, we’re covering some of the year's most impactful environmental, recycling, and sustainability initiatives in the business world.

 

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The Growing Waste & Recycling Problems from PPE, Masks, and COVID-19

In this blog post, we dive more into the increased plastic pollution problem as a result of the pandemic, additional areas of impact, and how humanity can recognize and take necessary steps to alleviate the PPE problem before it’s too late.

**This article was originally published October 2020 and has been updated. More than 12 months after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, we’re still dependent on those disposable blue “paper” masks. The world uses 129 billion per month, 3 million a minute, or 50,000 every second depending on how you frame it. But what most of the world hasn’t pictured is the convergence of pandemics—because the masks we’ve relied on to dampen transmission aren’t just paper. They’re polypropylene too, the same plastic used for drinking straws and ketchup bottles. As the world grapples with a glut of plastics in its soil, drinking water, and even the tip of Mt. Everest, we’re faced with a new mountain of a problem: trillions of discarded masks with virtually no solution to recycle them. While no one could have predicted a pandemic or its many byproducts, without collective action and innovative thinking, we’ll be fighting personal protective equipment (PPE) long after the novel coronavirus is gone.

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Landfills: We're Running Out of Space

All over the country, subterranean garbage heaps called landfills are rising, fueled by the 292.4 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) the US produces each year. For many Americans, “out of sight, out of mind” is good enough. But inevitably, major problems will surface. From hazardous waste to running out of space, we may be overwhelmed by the rising cost of landfills this century.

This post was originally posted March 2018 and has updated with recent data and analysis March 2021. What if we told you the biggest cover-up operation in America had to do with where we send trash? All over the country, subterranean garbage heaps called landfills are rising, fueled by the 292.4 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) the US produces each year.  According to the EPA, in 2018, almost half of that trash (49.997%) went to landfills around the country. Worse, yearly MSW production has been steadily climbing, year over year since recording first began in the 1960s—and the US has never had a national recycling rate (recovered material + composting) higher than 35%. For many Americans, “out of sight, out of mind” is good enough. But inevitably, major problems will surface. From hazardous waste to running out of space, we may be overwhelmed by the rising cost of landfills this century.

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How to Recycle in America

  In the United States, we believe in a magic bin that graciously accepts our best guesses on numbered plastics, grease-soaked cardboard, and Styrofoam tailgate coolers.  Once per week, or sometimes more, that recycling bin on your curb or dumpster in your company’s alleyway is emptied and whisked away, readied for you to fill it with more. However, there’s a common misconception that we as Americans share about recycling: No one said you’re doing it incorrectly, so you must be doing it right. The sad truth is... you’re probably not.

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Why Smarter Recycling is Like a Rewards Program

  What to do when the price of recycling beer bottles rises? For many towns around the country—like Deer Lodge, Montana—the answer isn’t an elegant one: make trash cans larger. For cities like Hollywood, Florida, the response was more carrot than stick. Here, a full recycling bin counts toward your next full beer, and it’s an incentive concept worth examining for businesses interested in curbing costs.

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5 Sustainability Headlines You May Have Missed

In the midst of a variety of news stories, it’s easy to have missed some of the smaller, more positive stories in the sustainability sector. Thankfully, this is where RoadRunner has you covered! In our latest blog post, we’re rounding up some of the latest sustainability news you should know and highlighting helpful takeaways from each article in hopes of inspiring your business to get involved as well!

 

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4 Takeaways from Google’s Approach to a Carbon-Free Future

As a business owner or manager, you likely understand that acting on climate change is critical, but you may also not know where to start or worry that you do not have the time, resources, or influence to take action. To explain how, in this post we summarize Google’s initiative, how the company plans to act on climate change, and key takeaways businesses can use to better integrate climate-oriented action into their everyday practices. Continue reading for more information.

 

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The Plastic Bag Conundrum: A Brief History and Where We Are Now

Dive into the post below to learn more about the history of the plastic bag, measures that are being taken to help eliminate this type of waste, how COVID-19 has impacted plastic bag usage, and tips for saving plastic bags.

 

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