MARCH 27, 2022 UPDATE
The Senate companion bill to H.7279, S.2296 came to public hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture on Wednesday, March 30, at 4pm, in State House Room 313. The Committee voted to hold the bill for further study, which gives us time to still chime in to let them know how important this bill is to pass!
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FEBRUARY 17, 2022 UPDATE
On 2/17/22, the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee recommended the measure be held for further study. This means that it could be called for Committee debate and action at any point before the end of session. Once the bill leaves Committee, if it is not recommended for review by another committee, it will go to the House floor for a vote. If it passes the House, it will then be taken up by the Senate.
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Chapter volunteer vice chair, Patrick Diamond, will offer oral testimony on behalf of the Chapter to support the bill during the hearing.
We submitted written testimony in support of the bill, explicitly calling out:
—>The Surfrider Foundation Rhode Island Chapter appreciates that “Life Cycle Analysis” is defined in H.7279, thereby clarifying that “life cycle” means cradle to grave, and not only post-production or pre-end of life of products assessed by such analyses and arriving at just findings of the complete life cycle of products.
—>We are further grateful that H.7279 explicitly does not classify or allow in equitable alignment with reuse, composting or recycling, the waste handling practices of incineration, chemical conversion, pyrolysis or gasification, and further, that it does not permit products produced using these inferior, toxic practices to be considered under the definition of “post-consumer recycled material.” The plastics industry is heavily promoting conversion technology in multiple state bills across the U.S. right now, referring to the practice as “advanced” or “chemical” recycling, or greenwashing the toxic practice as “waste to energy.” Chemical conversion is a different method with new branding for the continued incineration of plastic waste, which leads to new air and water pollution problems while not reducing the production of single-use plastic packaging and items in the first place, or the disproportionate impacts on communities of color from plastic production and waste handling.
This is important to maintain in H.7279 to help properly steer waste management in Rhode Island, as waste-to-energy projects that incinerate plastics are a false solution to plastic pollution. Incinerators emit more carbon dioxide per unit of electricity (2988 lbs./MWh) than coal-fired power plants (2249 lbs./MWh), and have no place in our future of climate action and clean energy.
—>We would appreciate having §23-97-6 (b)(2) strengthened by the explicit inclusion of “Rhode Island based environmental justice groups.” As written, environmental justice groups could be considered for inclusion in pitches presented by bidders for the Producer Responsibility Organization role, but because pollution and waste issues disproportionately impact BIPOC communities, the explicit, mandated addition for bidders to specify how they will solicit and consider input from environmental justice groups is vital.
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Extended producer responsibility (EPR) for packaging laws inspire less wasteful packaging at the production phase and hold producers accountable for the cost of recycling and waste disposal, as well as for cleanup, of their packaging. Right now, the financial burden of this waste management falls primarily on taxpayers and municipalities, which is not only unfair, it also leads to more waste. This is because hard or impossible-to-recycle packaging floods our store shelves, a direct result of producers not being held accountable to their waste or incentivized by our laws to rethink sustainability in packaging.
Take a deeper dive on EPR here.
The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) took the lead on introducing an EPR for packaging bill in the Rhode Island General Assembly, in 2022, and we joined forces with other allies to support their effort.
The proposed bill, H.7279, is a very strong policy that builds off from our collective regional work in helping pass similar legislation into law in the state of Maine, in 2021.
Check out CLF's information page on EPR for packaging in Rhode Island, here.
H.7279 is a critical advancement, but it is important to note that EPR for packaging is not a standalone solution to our waste or plastic pollution problems. EPR should be advanced alongside other waste reduction strategies, such as polystyrene foam foodware bans and plastic bag bans that address single-use paper bags and reusable bags with fees for proven, working policy.
To stop plastic pollution, we must stop making plastic.
To advance climate action, we must stop making plastic.
To advance environmental justice, we must stop making plastic.
To help protect the ocean, waves, and beaches…we must stop making plastic.