A policy that would hold packaging producers responsible for the full life cycle of their products could triple Illinois’ recycling rate, according to a recent study from The Recycling Partnership — but there’s a long way to go to make it happen.
While the state’s current rate of 23% is on par with national numbers, the low percentage means Illinois loses 1.5 million tons of recyclable material each year to the landfill. Experts say a policy called “extended producer responsibility” would help boost the number of recyclables that make it into our curbside bins. The policy, which is currently being studied in Illinois, is “a paradigm shift in how waste is being managed,” said Scott Cassel, CEO and founder of the Product Stewardship Institute.
As its name suggests, it essentially extends producers’ responsibility upstream to the materials that go into a product, all the way downstream post-consumer to where those materials end up. Better known as EPR, the policy can be applied to a vast of array of products, from mattresses to motor oil. In fact, it has been implemented in Illinois in regard to electronics, prescription drugs and, most recently, paint.