Proposed New York law could change the way America recycles

It would shift the responsibility of recycling away from local government.

January 28, 2021, 3:19 PM

A proposed bill in New York could change the way recyclables are managed all over the country.

New York State Sen. Todd Kaminsky and Assemblyman Steve Englebright have introduced a bill to require packaging producers to pay for recycling.

The bill, S.1185, states that by shifting the responsibility from local government to corporate producers for the end-of-life disposal of packaging and paper products, recycling will increase, waste will be curbed and tax dollars saved.

Recyclable cans and plastic bottles are carried to a redemption center in Brooklyn, New York, Feb. 2, 2020.
Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images, FILE

Under the bill, producers would be required to finance the recycling of their paper products and packaging materials but would also be rewarded for enhancing the recyclability of the items. Producers would be able to comply with the provisions under the bill individually or as part of a producer responsibility organization (PRO).

The program would also create a funding mechanism to cover costs, and charges would be adjusted based on the rate of recycled content after it is used by consumers.

If the bill were to be passed, no producer would be permitted to sell any covered materials unless it is covered by a PRO plan approved by state regulators.

Recyclables are sorted at the Sims Municipal Recycling Facility, on the Brooklyn waterfront in New York, April 22, 2015.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Localities are struggling with the "burden of recycling costs," which then get passed on to taxpayers, Kaminsky said in a statement. The bill will also provide financial relief to municipalities, modernize recycling systems and create green jobs.

"We are facing a recycling crisis in our country, and it is essential for government to step up to the plate, mitigate waste and save taxpayer money -- and that is precisely what my extended producer responsibility legislation will do," said Kaminsky, who is also chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee.

If passed, New York would be the first state to implement such a program.

The efficacy of the recycling industry has been called into question as landfills continue to grow with items people intentionally toss into blue and green bins.

Cans are delivered for recycling at a center in Brooklyn, New York, Jan. 8, 2016.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images, FILE

A study published in Science Advances in October found that the U.S. produced more than 92.6 billion pounds of plastic waste in a single year -- 2016 -- with up to 904 million pounds of the plastic waste being illegally dumped.

That number may have significantly grown, since the global market and commodity pricing for all scrap materials was upended in 2018 with the emergence of China's National Sword policy, which banned plastic and other material from entering the country. China had previously been the world's main importer of global waste for almost three decades.

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