Gotham Gazette

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Letter To The Editor: Papering Over Recycling Success

Paper recycling (photo: Michael Anton/NY City Department of Sanitation))

To the Editor:  

The March 28, 2022 column, “For the Earth, It’s Essential New York Leaders Pass Extended Producer Responsibility,” by New York League of Conservation Voters President Julie Tighe misses the mark by urging lawmakers in Albany to pass an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policy. State legislators should pursue a more deliberative approach to consider New York’s paper recycling achievements, and EPR’s potential adverse effects, rather than rush to include a one-size-fits-all policy approach, which could disrupt successful paper recycling.

The paper industry is a leader when it comes to recycling. Thanks to billions of dollars in private investments, the paper industry recycles over 50 million tons of recovered paper annually – totaling more than 1 billion tons over the past two decades. In fact, more paper by weight is recycled from municipal waste streams than plastic, glass, steel, and aluminum combined. Our industry has already committed approximately $5 billion in manufacturing investments by 2023 to continue the best use of recycled fibers in our products – that’s nearly $2.5 million per day in sustainability investments.

Our paper recovery rates have risen and stayed at or near historically high levels without regulatory intervention. For example, the recycling rate for cardboard – the paper material most likely impacted by EPR policies – is nearly 89%. In New York, almost 90% of residents have access to curbside paper recycling. These are outstanding figures EPR policies would not likely improve.

Reducing landfill waste, curbing pollution, and addressing our changing climate are critically important environmental goals. EPR could jeopardize already effective paper recycling and create additional economic challenges. EPR expenses imposed on paper producers could also risk increasing costs on everyday items for consumers, and impact our industry’s 28,000 New York employees, who work in 224 facilities across the Empire State – jobs that meet $1.69 billion in annual payroll and generate $211 million in estimated state and local taxes.

Our New York paper industry and its products are part of the recycling solution. Our investments in recycling infrastructure and the wide availability of recycling programs continue to play a key role in paper recycling achievements. State representatives should use this real-world success as a road map for improving recycling rates, not impede successful paper recycling programs or create hardship for constituents.

Eric Steiner
Vice President of Government Affairs, American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA)
On Twitter @ForestandPaper

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