Like the rest of the United States, New York faces a developing environmental crisis as city and state governments try to determine how they can manage waste and recycling more effectively.
A new bill (S.1185A) sponsored by Senator Todd Makinsky plans to tackle the problem by shifting responsibility for recycling costs from local governments to corporate producers. The proposed New York recycling bill could invite sustainable changes across the country.
The Scope of America’s Waste Problem
The U.S. produces more waste per capita than any country. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reports that while the U.S. only makes up four percent of the world’s population, it generates 12 percent of the planet’s solid waste. Each American produces more than 1,700 pounds of waste per year, adding up to a staggering 239 million tons (478 billion pounds).
That waste then ends up in landfills, which can foster thousands of contaminants and, at times, pose serious environmental and health threats. Landfill leachate can contain PFAS, a man-made chemical known as the “forever chemical,” which poses a serious health and environmental hazard to communities due to its toxicity. Analyzing and addressing treatment options requires sampling methodology and analytical testing protocols, and it is extremely difficult.
However, as public interest in PFAS continues to rise, with plaintiffs beginning to target landfill owners and companies responsible for manufacturing, using, and disposing of PFAS based on releases from landfill leachate, communities are taking a stand against this public health danger.
Recycling also promises to lower the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. Unfortunately, recycling comes with its own challenges and roadblocks. For decades, the U.S. has mostly relied on other countries to process its recycling cheaply. That option is reaching its end. China has already placed heavy restrictions on how much material it will accept for recycling. Other countries plan to follow suit, which will force America’s municipal governments to handle recycling on their own. That will come at a much higher price.
New York’s Waste Problem Reflects the Country’s Issues
New York offers a smaller version of the issues that the overall country faces. Over the last two decades, New York has sent its trash to landfills and recycling centers across the country, including sites in Ohio and South Carolina.
Communities have accepted waste from New York to generate income. (Bishopville, SC, a city that takes waste from New York, has a 46 percent poverty rate.) More and more communities are reconsidering that decision, though. To some, no amount of money can compensate for the environmental damage of housing New York’s trash, leaving the state to handle the problem on its own.
New York Recycling Bill Shifts Responsibility to Packaging Producers
As fewer recycling centers and landfills agree to take New York’s refuse, the state’s municipalities face growing costs. The Extended Producer Responsibility Act created by S.1185A would shift the financial burden from local governments to the companies that manufacture packaging products made of materials like paper and plastic.
If passed, the bill would also create incentives for companies to use more recyclable materials in their packaging. Companies that include more recyclable materials would pay lower rates for end-of-life disposal. Ideally, shifting the responsibility to producers and adding incentives for them to use recyclable materials will lead to reduced waste while diverting costs from local governments.
A Successful Recycling Program Could Change the Country
If the New York recycling bill passes into a successful law, it could influence how the rest of the country manages its waste. Suddenly, states would see that they do not have to bear the financial burden of recycling. Instead, they could hold producers responsible and create incentives for using recyclable materials.
Environmental Litigation Support From Napoli Shkolnik Attorneys at Law
The incredible amount of waste stored in the landfills and recycling centers throughout New York and other states can cause significant damage to local environments. Pollution can also contribute to health problems for people living in the area.
If you believe that a negligent company has contributed to hazards in your community, contact Napoli Shkolnik Attorneys at Law to speak with a member of our environmental litigation team. You could receive financial compensation for damages that impact your life and community.