Extended Producer Responsibility Cost-Benefit Analysis

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RSE was hired by a specialty interest non-profit organization to conduct an independent analysis of the costs and benefits of EPR for packaging and printed paper, using the State of Minnesota as a case study. This project involved:

  • Developing a baseline model of Minnesota’s existing recycling infrastructure;
  • Modifying the model to show how the system could be structured under a managed system with enhanced standardization, education, and processing infrastructure;
  • Developing an example approach to how producers could fund the system under EPR, including calculating example fee rates for various printed paper and packaging categories.
  • Estimating environmental benefits from the higher recycling quantities identified by the study.

This project included an open communication and validation of assumptions through an external review process.

Cost-Benefit Analysis of a Recycling Deposit System

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The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) sought the expertise of RSE to evaluate the financial impact of a recycling refund program policy (commonly referred to as “bottle bill”) approach to beverage container recycling in Minnesota as an alternative to existing recycling programs. To complete this project, RSE:

  • Conducted a recyclable materials quantification and flow analysis to evaluate the State’s existing recycling infrastructure and materials market;
  • Conducted a detailed financial impact assessment of starting a refund system in Minnesota, drawing from data provided by Minnesota as well as several jurisdictions with bottle bills;
  • Created a generation and recovery model for beverage containers under the status quo and then modeled how beverage container flows may change if a recycling refund system were to supplement the existing recycling infrastructure;
  • Developed a beverage container recovery system cost-impact model for existing and recycling refund systems and estimated the overall impacts of the recycling refund system.

The study found that the recycling refund system described by the MPCA would result in increased recycling of approximately 107,000 tons of beverage containers or approximately 1.9 billion container units. In addition, the quality of the collected commodities would be improved over that of the existing recycling systems.

Manufacturing Facility Waste Assessment and End-to-End Analysis

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RSE conducted a waste audit and end-to-end analysis at Estee Lauder’s Melville, NY facility. The audit included collecting a sample of the types and quantities of materials generated in different stages of production, and annualizing the quantities of each material type. Annual quantities of waste material diverted and disposed of were estimated by material type and facility zone. RSE observed facility operations and identified strategies to increase diversion of materials and decrease materials management costs.

Statewide Recycling Infrastructure Assessment

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The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) works to prevent pollution, facilitate recycling, and conserve resources in Minnesota. RSE was commissioned by the MPCA to evaluate the state’s recycling and solid waste infrastructure and investment needs. To conduct this study, RSE:

  • Analyzed recycling data for each of Minnesota’s 87 counties;
  • Analyzed data from recycling facilities, filling data gaps with facility interviews;
  • Managed a subcontractor that conducted a statewide survey of recycling facilities and site visits to key recycling processing facilities to better assess their age, condition, and ability to recycle increased quantities of materials;
  • Performed a markets assessment, which included comparing the quantities of different grades of materials collected for recycling in the state compared to in-state recycled market capacity and regional market capacity;
  • Used geographic information system (GIS) mapping to illustrate waste flows and identify opportunities for joint planning and education among counties.

The results of the study were used by MPCA to promote regional approaches to materials management through regional planning and joint action agencies and to evaluate requests for capital grants and expansion of existing waste and recycling facilities.

Public Space Recycling Pilot Study

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RSE was contracted by The American Beverage Association to manage a pilot project to implement and test public space recycling. The pilot program consisted of the installation of 126 public space recycling receptacles in several locations throughout five Palm Beach County communities. The goals of the pilot program were to:

  • Measure and improve public space recycling performance;
  • Create an effective, active, and sustainable recycling system for beverage containers generated in the public space for each host jurisdiction;
  • Create opportunities for the public to recycle their beverage containers to reduce litter;
  • Identify and demonstrate the use of functional and visually appealing recycling receptacles; and
  • Increase public awareness of the opportunities and convenience of recycling in the host jurisdiction.

The project included assessing waste management behaviors before and after implementation of the new recycling receptacles and associated communications programs. The program was successful in capturing a significant amount of used beverage containers that would otherwise have been disposed of, and in decreasing litter behaviors.

Statewide Plastics Recycling Study

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RSE conducted a plastic recycling study for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Oregon Metro. RSE estimated the quantity and types of plastics generated, recovered, and disposed of in Oregon. RSE also identified markets for various types of plastic, including recycling and energy markets. RSE then assessed commercial and pre-commercial technologies for sorting plastics into market categories either at a materials recovery facility (MRF), a plastics recycling facility (PRF), or at a reprocessor/reclaimer.  RSE then provided a recommendation of state-level waste and recycling policies with the potential to significantly increase plastics recycling in Oregon.

Extended Producer Responsibility Organization Setup and Operation

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RSE has been operating the Recycle Everywhere program in Manitoba, Canada since 2010. RSE designed, set up, and implemented the organizational and operational structure of the beverage container recycling program on behalf of the Canadian Beverage Container Recycling Association. Recovery of empty beverage containers has risen continuously from 42% to almost 70% since. In addition, RSE also operates a producer responsibility organization (PRO) that recycles tires in the province of Ontario,Canada, and Reclay Group operates many other recycling programs for printed paper and packaging across Europe.

State Solid Waste and Materials Management Plan

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RSE team members worked with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Control (TDEC) to update their solid waste and materials management plan for the first time in 24 years. TDEC’s Commissioner signed the plan in April 2015. Development of the plan included several stakeholder input sessions throughout the state and via videoconferencing, as well as surveys. The Plan established eight objectives for achieving statewide goals. Strategies and tactics were presented, with an understanding of the variability in demographics throughout Tennessee. The Plan is already serving as a guide for TDEC as they move forward developing programs and policies to help the state and its communities achieve their sustainable materials management goals and objectives.

Compliance Review

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RSE team members assisted a US-based consumer goods manufacturer in understanding the range of EPR programs in Canada for product and product packaging. RSE provided a country-wide analysis of the company’s obligations and developed a new reporting methodology to ensure comprehensive compliance and reduce business risk. This review included an analysis of legal obligations under extended producer responsibility for the company that exports product to Canada, an analysis of options available to the company and possible implications with retail partners, and the calculation of potential financial obligations based on quantification of packaging generation by province. RSE is providing ongoing reporting and stewardship advice to the company.