The cost of plastic pollution starts way before the plastic is produced and lasts long after it has been thrown away. With the current model of plastic manufacturing, waste, and recovery, the responsibility is mostly placed on the backs of the consumer and local governments to use, collect, and recycle the plastic properly during the middle part of its lifecycle, usually at a high financial cost. But what about the companies that provide the raw materials for making plastic, the ones that use massive amounts of it in their packaging? And what about the post-consumer cost of cleaning up all the plastic pollution? Enter the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).
Originally introduced by Thomas Lindhqvist in a 1990 report to the Swedish Ministry of the Environment, EPR by definition is a strategy aimed at manufacturers in which the manufacturer is responsible for the proper disposal of the products they sell and is intended to reduce waste and encourage environmental procedures by shifting the responsibility of disposal from consumers and governments back to the manufacturer.
In this so-called "cradle to grave" process, the way products are produced and how they are disposed of becomes the primary driver for plastic producers and companies who use it in their manufacturing. But what are the benefits?
Classified in terms of social, environmental, and economic benefits, EPR is beginning to change the way some companies do business. Socially, consumers are looking for companies that take the manufacturing of more environmentally sustainable products seriously and this can provide a boost in public perception. From an environmental standpoint, decreasing the number of toxic components used in products and thinking about the products ending up in a landfill vs. being recycled helps with energy consumption and overall air and water pollution. Economically, EPR attempts to provide incentives to producers that change the design of their products to be more sustainable and shifts the burden of disposal back to them.
While all of this sounds great, and countries like Sweden, Germany, Japan, and the EU have implemented various policies for things like electronics, plastic packaging, and other toxic chemicals used in manufacturing, there are some limitations and it is said that EPR works better in theory rather than practice in the real world. Additionally, this strategy does not necessarily reduce the amount of waste created but simply assumes that more of what is produced gets recycled properly. It is going to take more companies, countries, and governments to enact more of these policies, but if EPR is accepted on a global scale, it could be one prong in a multi-pronged approach to solving the ocean plastic pollution crisis and we think that it is worth a shot.
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Florida is known as the "Fishing Capital of the World," but in recent years, the world-renowned fisheries of the coastal estuaries and Everglades have been in decline as a direct result of decades of water mismanagement. To raise awareness about a unique ecosystem on the verge of collapse, we released the Everglades Bracelet in partnership with Captains For Clean Water, a nonprofit organization who's been on the front lines of the fight for the restoration of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We teamed up with the Miami Police Department Marine Division and their Youth Police Explorers to clean up Pace Picnic Island in Miami's famous Biscayne Bay, which is home to many endangered species and other fish and animals that need protection from ocean plastic pollution. And, wow, wait until you see some of the things that we found during the cleanup.
When most people think about the Florida Everglades, the last thing they probably think about is Disney World, EPCOT, and Universal Studios. But the reality is, just south and east of these world-famous Orlando theme parks, there is a little-known waterway called Shingle Creek winding its way behind such luxurious resorts as the Ritz Carlton, the Rosen, and JW Marriott. Surprisingly enough, this is where the water story begins –– this is where Everglades begins. And unfortunately, where the problems begin, too.