The amount of trash produced by homes and businesses that poses problems for public health and the environment keeps growing. It has reached the point where we must work out better ways to keep dangerous trash out of landfills and out of our water supplies. And we will have to decide who will be responsible, because when we leave that question unanswered, the burden inevitably falls on taxpayers and on innocent people who are exposed to toxic materials.
Nearly every home and business contains materials like paints, cleaners and solvents, devices containing highly toxic materials (e.g. cell phones, TVs, computers) and prescription drugs that can become public health threats if handling improperly.
I recently returned from a three day conference on “Extended Producer Responsibility” also called “Manufacturer Take-back.” The conference was sponsored by the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators and they covered my travel expenses to serve as one of the presenters. But I not only shared my experiences in promoting environmental legislation here in Rhode Island, I also learned a lot from what my fellow legislators shared with me.
In Rhode Island, we’ve been calling the concept of manufacturer take-back “Product Stewardship.” I have been proud to introduce legislation to promote its expansion in our state. We have already succeeded in launching programs to reduce the amount of mercury and high tech waste that gets tossed in the trash. But we need to go much further.
First, let’s be clear that the best way to reduce waste is not to generate it in the first place. We must keep up the pressure on manufacturers to produce cleaner, safer, “greener” products. We need to curb our wasteful consuming habits. We need to encourage more reuse and recycling.
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