Leave it to New York state lawmakers to come up with a business-environmental bill that hurts businesses without doing a lot for the environment.
The Extended Producer Responsibility Act (A5801/S1185B) attempts to shift the burden for recycling many materials from municipalities, where it’s been a great success, to the businesses that produce of packaging and paper products.
Bill sponsors would have you believe that shifting the cost of recycling onto the companies that make the materials is a good thing.
But for businesses based on the distribution of paper — including newspapers, paper manufacturers like Quad Graphics and Mohawk Paper, and companies like The Gazette that print materials for other businesses — the bill could have devastating financial effects.
The newspaper industry is already struggling financially. Small local newspapers, which residents rely on for information about government and community activities, could be placed in further financial jeopardy by the costs imposed by this bill.
And they’re being unfairly targeted.
Newspapers and paper in general are not responsible for the high costs of recycling. In fact, newspapers only make up 1.7% of the entire municipal waste stream.
Newspapers also may be one of the least harmful products to the environment out there. More than 64% of old newspapers are recycled into products, including home insulation, egg cartons and cereal boxes.
Newsprint biodegrades by itself in two to six months, and can safely be composted in home gardens because the fibers break down easily and the inks are non-toxic.
Even the production of the paper for newsprint is environmentally friendly.
The Gazette, for example, uses soy-based printing ink for all of its publications. Our newsprint is a virgin wood product that does not contain any recycled fiber. But it is produced using sustainable forestry methods.
The legislation is opposed by the New York News Publishers Association and the Business Council of New York State.
The council says it was crafted without extensive public discussion, regional hearings and input from businesses most affected by it. In addition, the bill proposes an aggressive timetable without having rooted out the potential impacts.
There may indeed be a need to shift some of the burden for recycling onto certain manufacturers over time.
But to single out an essential information industry that is already suffering economically — and which has long taken major steps to create an environmentally friendly, cost-effective, recyclable product — is poor policy and bad business for New York.