Greg Hyatt is a journalist in Sacramento where he covers California environmental issues, with an emphasis on environmental legislation, litigation and regulation. His blog with PublicCEO.com will focus the local government effects of the more controversial environmental policy issues.
Local government groups are teaming up with major environmental groups this year to advance bills in the state Legislature mandating manufacturers to implement their own product-take back programs.
The issue or debate is whether manufacturers should be required to manage and recycle a variety of consumer products, including electronics and pharmaceuticals, at its end of life.
This concept is being referred to as “extended producer responsibility” or EPR.
Local government representatives for the past several years have argued that they do not have enough money to manage an increasing load of household hazardous waste that cannot be disposed in landfills.
Compounding matters, local governments argue, is the fact that many household hazardous wastes like batteries and fluorescent lamps were banned from disposal in normal trash in 2006 (the funny part is, how many Californians actually know about this ban?).
This ban has to be enforced by local governments, and so now they are looking for manufacturers, corporations or whoever is willing to step in and help pay for managing this waste.
Assemblyman Wes Chesbro has introduced a bill, AB 283, which would establish the California Product Stewardship Act. Strongly supporting the bill is the California Product Stewardship Council, a non-profit supported by dozens of local governments.
Under the bill, the state waste management board would select products that would be banned for sale in California UNLESS the manufacturer submits to the board a plan for recycling the product or redesigning the product to be more environmentally friendly.
The bill would also authorize the state waste board to levy penalties of up to $50,000 on those companies that do not comply with the law.
Other bills are expected to soon be introduced that will target specific products and set up product take-back programs for them.
Environmentalists, this legislative session, are marking AB 283 and these other expected bills as priorities.
EPR concepts have been controversial to some industry and manufacturing groups due to fears about higher costs. With the state of the economy, these bills are likely to face at least some resistance from these groups in the Legislature.