Recent Survey & Study Shows Proposed Recycling Legislation is Costly to Consumers and A Burden on Businesses


Recent Survey & Study Shows Proposed Recycling Legislation is Costly to Consumers and A Burden on Businesses
Business Groups Seek More Workable Solution to “Expanded Producer Responsibility” (EPR) Bill

ALBANY – The Business Council of New York State Inc., citing a recent study and consumer survey, is seeking alternatives to unworkable packaging legislation that would increase costs for consumers and businesses across the state.  

A recent study issued from York University in Toronto and a recent survey by our Public Policy Institute focus on the potential impacts of “expanded producer responsibility” (EPR) legislation aimed at reducing the use of and increasing the recovery and recycling of packaging materials.

The study showed that consumers will likely face a $1 billion-a-year cost increase over the next five years, while the survey showed that those familiar with the legislation support a more balanced approach to achieving its goals.

“This survey shows that while New Yorkers are supportive of policies to protect the environment, they also believe that we need a balance between environmental mandates and economic impacts as they are concerned about the potential cost and other consumer impacts of an EPR law,” said Ken Pokalsky, Vice President of Government Affairs, The Business Council of New York State Inc.  “And many businesses agree.  We are working with an informal coalition of more than one hundred businesses and business groups that can support a workable EPR law in New York.  However, the current legislative proposal is not workable.  It differs significantly from what other states have adopted, pushing too far and too fast on source reduction; it bans essential materials used in packaging and seems more punitive than productive.  We believe New Yorkers want a more balanced recycling law.”

The survey, conducted for The Public Policy Institute, the Business Council’s research affiliate, was done by Axis Research, based in Alexandria, Virginia, and asked New Yorkers general questions about issues of concern and specific questions about the potential impact of packaging-focused EPR legislation.   

Key Survey Findings

New Yorkers most frequently cited “affordability” as the most important issue for state lawmakers to address, with 27% of respondents saying the ‘Cost of Living’ should be the legislature’s main focus, compared to 19% saying ‘Crime and Drugs,’ while 13% percent said the ‘Overall Economy’ is the top concern.

On environmental issues in general and packaging issues in particular, the survey found:

                - New Yorkers strongly (48%) support “a balance between environmental protection and economic impacts” of environmental proposals, compared to 36% who place economic impacts first and 16% who place environmental impact first.

                - While there is support for EPR legislation in concept, 56% of New Yorkers believe EPR legislation would increase costs for everyday products, and 56% also said they were not willing to pay more for goods to reduce plastic waste (just 15% of New Yorkers said they would be willing to spend more than $50 per month.)

                - When told that one study suggests EPR costs of up to $5 billion over the next five years, 87% of respondents said that was a concern, and 69% said that was a significant concern.  New Yorkers also had major concerns that EPR legislation could result in other consumer impacts, including increased grocery prices, which 63% saw as a significant concern, and reduced availability of some consumer items (82% saw this as a concern, 52% as a significant concern.) 

Recent Study Data

The cost impact figure comes from a recent study written by Dr. Calvin Lakhan, who is the co-investigator of the “Waste Wiki” project at York University, and on its faculty of Environment and Urban Change, which has focused on advancing understanding of waste management research and policy in Canada.  Based on recent experience with expanded recycling programs in Canadian provinces, his study projects that the current New York EPR bill has a potential impact of about $1 billion annually on New York households, with an even higher overall impact on the state’s economy (with these figures based on a “medium cost scenario”).  Over five years, the study projects a $720 cost per household from EPR’s impact on consumer prices.

“Even businesses that support EPR in concept realize that this will be an expensive program,” added Pokalsky.  “Not only will EPR require companies to reimburse municipalities and others for collection and processing costs, but it will also require the redesign of packaging, the use of new materials and new production capacity, and the elimination of certain packaging and product choices, among others – changes that will have a direct impact on New York consumers.  Think of the incredible variety of packaging you encounter weekly whose use will have to be reassessed under this legislation, and you will appreciate the scope of this program.”

The Lakhan study also concludes that, based on experience in other jurisdictions, packaging producers are not likely to “internalize these costs;” instead, cost increases will be shifted to consumers and other participants in the supply chain.

“Given broad-based concerns about affordability, we believe any new legislation must be designed to avoid unnecessary cost impacts,” Pokalsky added.  “For EPR legislation, this means assuring that the legislation is focused on priority issues, including the diversion of wastes from disposal, and improving our material collection and recycling capabilities. We should avoid imposing broad material bans and other mandates that will impose significant cost increases on the businesses that provide essential products to New Yorkers, and ultimately on New York consumers.”