By Guy Page
A bill to save landfills $1.6 million in hazardous waste disposal costs by passing the cost along to manufacturers will go to the House floor today.
Supporters like Rep. Kari Dolan (D-Waitsfield) say H115 aims at safe, cost-effective management of hazardous waste such as near-empty cans of WD-40. It will reduce consumer costs, reduce trash haulers’ exposure to toxic chemicals thrown in the trash, and reduce the toxic chemical burden on Vermont’s lone remaining landfill.
H115 is also another “first in the nation” foray into government regulation of private industry. Critics say it’s an expensive, time-consuming regulatory nightmare that will require yet another government registry and will likely add consumer costs and reduce availability of necessary household items.
At present, household waste is collected at local transfer stations. The costs are paid by the station operators, who in turn pass along the cost to users. H115’s solution: “the State shall implement a program to require the manufacturers of household products containing a hazardous substance to implement a stewardship organization to collect household products containing a hazardous substance free of charge to the public.”
In other words, the manufacturer must create an organization to collect and dispose of the products, on its own dime.
As Dolan concedes, no other state is now using the manufacturer-paid stewardship organization model. A few Canadian provinces require ‘stewardship organizations.’ Collections there are way up, she said.
The bill takes up 15 pages in today’s House Calendar. Most of the extensive verbiage describes how to set up a ‘stewardship organization’ and make it work. Some household toxics are covered – like nonrefillable propane canisters – and some are not, like batteries, pharmaceuticals, and paint. Manufacturers must create stewardship organizations that 1) list the names of all member manufacturers and 2) register with the Agency of Natural Resources.
The stewardship organizations must implement and publicize free product collection. These collection plans must have a participation rate of five percent of each county’s population. Failure to meet that goal will require the organization to write and implement another plan.
The bill also confers the right to sue for non-compliance.