Bureaucracy Isn’t the Answer to Ocean Pollution

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The existence of plastic waste in the world’s oceans has raised reasonable concerns about the impact on wildlife and the environment. But rather than develop reasonable solutions, federal lawmakers have proposed a massively bureaucratic, federally led waste management scheme that would make former Soviet economic planners proud. And like Soviet economic plans, this exercise is destined to fail as well, collapsing into an expensive and unworkable bureaucratic mess.

This “genius” plan is part of the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act (S. 984 and H.R. 2238), sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA). Euphemistically dubbed as an “extended producer responsibility” policy, this proposal would force a vast number of businesses — distributors, importers, manufacturers, and retailers — into implementing a heavily regulated federal waste management regime. And the program would not only apply to plastic products; it covers all packaging — paper, glass, metal, and plastic — as well as single-use plastics and all non-package-related paper products.

Stamping out free markets, the bill would set up countless federally guided associations, referred to as “Producer Responsibility Organizations,” to engage in national waste management planning. It would force the regulated businesses to fund, create, and join these entities — creating an organization for nearly every type of packaging, single-use plastic, or paper product on the market, with very few limited exceptions (such as books).

Given the many types of packaging and other products covered under this bill, the number of organizations would quickly become unwieldy. And the bill would allow businesses to form more than one organization for a product category, in which case the EPA administrator could coordinate the activities of those organizations or create even more organizations to carry out those coordination functions.

The busy work associated with developing and participating in these organizations promises to be substantial. The legislation envisions myriad producer responsibility organizations at various levels of government, from local to state to national. Businesses would likely feel compelled to hire staff to participate at every level and probably in multiple local organizations to ensure they have representation on key committees that will commit their industry to certain disposal responsibilities.

The legislation would require each organization to develop a “product stewardship plan” for the product it covers and gain EPA approval for the plan, revising it every five years. These plans would govern everything from collection to disposal for nearly all packaging, single-use plastics, and paper sold in the United States. Companies would have to comply with the performance targets set by these plans and work with local governments to implement collection, sorting, and disposal, according to plan rules.

Read the full article at Real Clear Policy.