New York companies criticize the change in the packaging reduction law

State business leaders welcomed last-minute changes to a bill to limit plastic pollution and increase recycling statewide with fierce pushbacks in efforts to keep the measure from passage in the closing days of the session .

The legislation, dubbed the Packaging and Recycling Infrastructure Act, would establish an extended producer responsibility system in New York and make packaging manufacturers responsible for consumer waste costs and reduce used toxins. It would limit single-use plastic products for companies that sell packaged products and charge them a fee to join a fund to improve recycling infrastructure, increase the amount of waste recycled, and support other local recycling programs.

“Cities are drowning in waste,” sponsor state Senator Pete Harckham said on Monday. “It’s costing our taxpayers in our municipalities hundreds of millions of dollars that can be better spent on teachers, firefighters or social workers.”

Harckham, who chairs the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, says the measure is estimated to save taxpayers $250 million a year and relieve local governments of recycling costs.

The proposed law would apply to companies with annual net income exceeding $1 million. Companies would be required to register with the Packaging Reduction Organization to come up with a plan and ensure compliance with the new packaging and recycling rules with six months to implement it.

The bill was amended and reprinted for the eighth time on Friday to streamline the reduction process for affected companies and give the state Department of Environmental Conservation more oversight.

“We believe in shared responsibility,” said Assembly sponsor Deborah Glick, who chairs the Environmental Conservation Committee in the lower house. “This shouldn’t just be the responsibility of municipalities and the taxpayer. This should be something where our friends in industry take some responsibility for the waste they generate in our homes.”

Affected companies would be required to reduce their packaging by 10% in weight within three years, 20% in five years, 30% within eight years, 40% after a decade and 50% in 12 years.

If approved, the measure would ban 12 types of chemicals and three types of plastics used in packaging.

It would limit single-use plastic products for companies that sell packaged products, charge them a fee, and use that money to increase and improve recycling.

But state business leaders are strongly against the measure, arguing it would increase costs for consumers and could lead to more long-term packaging or materials that won’t protect a product as effectively.

“If you want that convenience of [next-day shipping]and you want it in the exact size box and you want it tomorrow, I may not have time to wait for the exact size box to get it on hand,” said Walter Reiter, director of defense and regulatory affairs with the EPS Alliance a association representing manufacturers and recyclers of polystyrene compound.

Reiter said the EPS Alliance has supported extended producer responsibility schemes created in Oregon and Canada, which restrict, but do not prohibit, certain compounds. He cited DEC’s guidance on potential alternatives for packaging such as starch, bamboo or mushrooms that may be compostable, but not recyclable or intended for reuse.

“If it’s about extended producer responsibility, it should focus on what the packaging is,” Reiter added. “I would like the EPR to focus on keeping material in commerce and out of landfills and not diving into bans and attacks on chemicals and materials that are not understood. There is no assessment as to whether others have a greater or lower environmental impact. Some materials use more water. Some materials produce more acidification, there are more categories as to where these impacts are.”

Dozens of organizations have sent letters to legislative leaders and sponsors of the law over the past week railing against the proposal before the session concludes.

Meanwhile, other entrepreneurs have made the switch to reusable packaging on their own, proving that it is already feasible. Lauren Sweeney, co-founder and CEO of DeliverZero, relies on reusable containers for her takeout and delivery business, which has dozens of locations in New York City.

“We know reuse is possible, we know reuse can be profitable,” he said on Capitol Hill Monday. “We know that reduction is only possible through reuse. There is both the technology and infrastructure to support reuse through businesses that exist in upstate New York.”

The decision rests with legislative leaders to take the bill on the floor for a vote in the Senate and Assembly before the session ends at the end of the week. Representatives with Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins ​​and the offices of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie did not respond to requests for comment on the legislation.

Sources on Monday doubted he would authorize the legislature within the next few days, citing insufficient time to review the changes made to the bill and their impact on New York businesses.

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