Taking Circularity National: Truth In Labeling, A Bottle Bill And More (SWEEP October Webinar Recap)

For October’s SWEEP webinar, our good friend Heidi Sanborn joined us this past month to talk on the National Stewardship Action Council’s latest work around a national bottle bill, along with acts dealing with pipes and wipes. 

Check out our webinar recap below!

Change Starts By Turning Off The Spigot

When the bathtub is starting to overfill, you have two remedies: 1) get the contents out (by opening the drain or making some extra holes), and 2) turn off the spigot to keep any more from coming in the tub. 

When it comes to waste, the current system has tried to drain as much as possible with recycling programs and landfills. And while those efforts are great, they’re simply not enough to counteract the enormous volume coming from the “spigot” (i.e. the production of virgin materials, especially plastic). 

Things are backing up, and we’re struggling to keep our heads above water. 

If we want real change, we can’t just focus on mitigating the damage of creating new materials. We need to turn off the spigot and start working with the substantial amount of material we already have at our fingertips. 

Recycling isn’t enough to do this. We need to start designing out waste and focusing on regeneration. A circular economy doesn’t just treat the critical wounds we’ve dealt our planet—it helps facilitate active recovery.

EPR Is Crucial For A Thriving Circular World

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a concept that flips the script on traditional product lifecycles. In a nutshell, it suggests that those who manufacture or sell products should take responsibility for the entire lifespan of their creations. That means from cradle to grave, producers are accountable for the environmental impact of their goods. 

Some of the tools to help implement this include:

Sales bans

California imposed a sales ban on mercury thermostats and proactively sent out collection boxes to wholesalers. This builds upon AB707 (the Mercury Thermostat Collection Act of 2021) which helps build the convenience standard for collecting mercury thermostats that posed a health risk if they ever broke. Today, CA has the highest rebate in the nation ($30/thermometer turned in).

Truth in labelling

If you’ve ever seen a styrofoam container labeled with “no microplastics”, then you know how audacious the greenwashing can be from some manufacturers when unchecked. Consumers need the opportunity to choose their products wisely by getting all the right info up front. It becomes much harder when labels can say “natural”, “green”, or other eco buzz-words without consequence. 

These bad labels send a signal to the person purchasing it that this product is “green”, which means they may not only opt for this product above other actually eco-friendly alternatives, but they may even toss them into the recycling bins—which means that the entire stream is now contaminated. 

Product stewardship

In true “cradle to grave” fashion, California enacted the nation’s first drug and needles stewardship law in the nation. This set the convenience standard of one collection site per 50K people in the county, with a minimum of five collection sites per county. 

Not only are these dangerous materials taken out of the community, but they’re also disposed of properly instead of being misplaced and contaminating potential recycling streams—a win-win for all involved. 

We Need A National Bottle Bill

What difference could a national bottle bill make?

According to Susan Collins with the Container Recycling Institute, 10.3 million additional tons of plastic could be recycled annually with a national bottle bill!

The recycling rate for conventional plastic beverage bottles in the 10 states that have bottle bills is 63%, compared to 17% in non-regulated states.

Eight of the ten states with the highest recycling rates right now have bottle bills in place. 

Excitably, there is one in the pipeline! S.3127 (aka The Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act of 2023) was introduced in October 2023. 

You can read more on the proposed national bottle bill (and its potential impacts) here.

Now it’s your turn!

For more details on the amazing work that NSAC does, be sure to check out the full webinar

And be sure to join us for our next webinar on November 30th, where Earth 911 Mitch Ratcliffe CEO will discuss how to build circular economies at the grassroots! Register here today—we can’t wait to see you!

And if you’re ready to lead the charge toward sustainable materials management, consider becoming a SWEEP member to connect with like-minded individuals and organizations. Reach out at info@sweepstandard.org to sign up today!

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