Industry program openly condemns legislative options, punishes EPR supporters
BOSTON, Mass. — The Product Stewardship Institute, Inc. (PSI), a national nonprofit dedicated to reducing the health and environmental impacts of consumer products, today expressed its disappointment over the carpet industry’s new, nationwide "voluntary product stewardship,” or VPS, program, explicitly designed to "oppose efforts to enact extended producer responsibility (EPR) legislation” for carpet.
The program, unveiled Monday by the Carpet and Rug Institute and the Carpet America Recovery Effort "to assist sorters of post-consumer carpet diverted from the nation’s landfills,” provides a financial incentive to U.S. sorters who formally agree to support the VPS program rather than EPR for as long as the VPS program remains active, and for no less than 18 months after receiving the last program payment. Any sorter caught "in violation of this agreement”—grounds for which include participating "in EPR legislative efforts”—must pay back all of the funds. The VPS program also excludes sorters in California, where carpet EPR regulations are in effect, as well as any sorters working with carpet scrap originating in California.
"Clearly, carpet manufacturers spent significant time to develop this complex program to reduce the multi-million dollar cost that carpet waste imposes on taxpayers, and while we appreciate them taking some degree of responsibility, their purely voluntary approach is hardly a balanced and sustainable solution,” said Scott Cassel, chief executive officer of PSI, which facilitated a national carpet stewardship dialogue meeting in May 2014 that was boycotted by carpet manufacturers because legislation was a component of the discussion. "The carpet industry fails to acknowledge that our country’s market-based economy thrives on balanced regulation—not by letting industry decide for itself what is in the public interest.”
Furthermore, Cassel added, for decades, states around the country postponed the introduction of carpet EPR legislation as a way to give the industry a chance to prove the success of its voluntary efforts. Unfortunately, those efforts failed to sustain the recycling infrastructure needed to get beyond the current 7.5 percent national recycling rate. The recently announced VPS program is now the industry’s third attempt in the past 20 years.
The VPS program is expected to run for two years beginning in January 2015, with "qualified” sorters receiving their first financial incentives in June 2015. It attempts to stimulate market demand for scrap carpet. However, funding for the sorters during the two-year period is uncertain; sorters must sign a letter acknowledging that the "current level of funding is not a guarantee of the same/similar payments in the future."
At the two-day national meeting in Hartford, Conn. in May, more than 100 state and local government officials, recyclers, and retailers discussed a variety of potential scrap carpet management solutions—among them, EPR. Multiple states are expected to introduce carpet EPR legislation in 2015.
"We continue to welcome discussion with those carpet manufacturers who seek a balanced and sustainable approach to reducing carpet waste,” said Cassel. "In the meantime, we will work with those no longer willing to wait around for the carpet industry, and will take steps to solve the economic and environmental problems that the carpet industry’s products create for citizens of the U.S.”