We applaud the signing of California’s AB 1158 into law as a significant step for the state and a new global standard in producer responsibility. California’s AB 1158 repairs the state’s Carpet Stewardship Program. As cities and states struggle with increasing waste generation and the cost of waste management programs, this program provides a strong example for states to tackle troublesome waste streams. The new program transforms an existing ineffective program for carpet waste into a global model by:
- Including incentives for carpet manufacturers to redesign carpet. Redesign of carpet addresses the root cause of hard to recycle carpets, and will also lead to increased use of recycled content in new carpet.
- Requiring the industry program to increase their recycling rate
- Discouraging use of incineration while promoting recycling — avoiding a frequent pitfall of this type of legislation.
- Restricting use of consumer fees collected to fund recycling and redesign, instead of waste disposal (landfilling or incineration) or paying industry costs associated with penalties for noncompliance
- Improving consumer, retailer, and installer education and making it easier and more convenient for people to recycle their old carpet
Organizations representing people who live near California’s incinerators (including East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice and Valley Improvement Project) have connected carpet waste with impacts on health and the environment in recent media articles (see here and here) and added to the call for overhaul of this program.
Overall this much improved program now provides a model for other states and countries. However, producer responsibility programs are always more successful when industry pays for the program, instead of relying on consumer fees. When the industry is not required to underwrite the waste program, companies lack financial incentives to design truly effective programs.