Powerful business groups for the first time are backing state legislation that would make them shoulder the costs of waste and recycling programs. The Consumer Brands Association, Ameripen and the Flexible Packaging Association are supporting a Maryland proposal to tax bottles, food wrappers and other packaging and use the money to improve recycling infrastructure. The endorsement is the first concrete evidence that major brands are willing to help fund government programs to reduce plastic waste — and it is fueling skepticism among environmental advocates who worry the legislation isn’t strong enough to hold companies accountable.
Under the Maryland proposal, the state would study how much funding is needed to upgrade local recycling systems and reduce waste. The study would help companies set fees as part of a larger plan to reduce their packaging use by 25 percent this decade. The proposal would be due by 2024 and would require approval from state regulators and an advisory council of packaging makers, trash haulers, environmental advocates and local officials.
John Hewitt, vice president of packaging sustainability at the Consumer Brands Association, which represents companies including General Mills, Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble, said the legislation strikes the right balance between state oversight and flexibility for the companies that will run the program. The group is pushing for several amendments, including removing the 25 percent reduction target so producers can determine what goals are achievable, according to testimony submitted for a Maryland Senate hearing last week.