editorial

Proposed recycling legislation deals devastating blow to community newspapers

By MICHELE RAE
Posted 4/7/21

New York State Sen. Todd Kaminsky and a host of colleagues have introduced legislation that shifts the responsibility and costs of recycling from municipalities to the producers of packaging and …

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editorial

Proposed recycling legislation deals devastating blow to community newspapers

Posted

New York State Sen. Todd Kaminsky and a host of colleagues have introduced legislation that shifts the responsibility and costs of recycling from municipalities to the producers of packaging and paper products. The legislation is called the Extended Producer Responsibility Act and it is a useful tool to hold packaging producers responsible for the waste that they produce. Unfortunately, they have included newspapers in the act. In other countries around the world, newspapers have been exempted from these recycling initiatives. New York should follow suit.

In Canada, this product-focused approach is referred to as product stewardship. And while each Canadian province has adopted different stewardship models, there are strong similarities in how newspapers are treated. Their approach is consistent with how newspapers are managed in recycling regimes all over the world. Newspapers have been treated differently in recognition of the fact that they provide a public benefit, that they can make a significant contribution to public education on recycling and that they are not a packaged good like other materials in the recycling stream. 

Newspapers perform an important role in our democracy, and they are not a consumable product—there are no contents and no packaging—the two are indistinguishable. Treating newspapers like packaged goods discriminates unfairly against newspapers; the packaged goods industry makes no investment in the contents of their packages, just the packaging itself.

Further, newspapers have been good stewards of the environment for decades. In 1989, New York’s newspaper industry entered into a voluntary agreement with the State of New York to increase its usage of recycled newsprint to 40 percent by the year 2000. Recycling damages the fiber in newsprint, so a minimum of 50 percent new fiber is required to maintain quality. Newsprint with too little new fiber tears when the presses are running and causes the ink to blot.

Newsprint accounts for less than seven percent of solid waste in a typical community.

Newspapers are environmentally sound. Publishers use the remains of what other industries discard: recycled fiber. Newspapers are compostable (you can use them in your vegetable garden) and they are re-manufactured (used to produce home insulation and packaging materials). They are reusable, biodegradable and the ink is non-toxic. The inks are made from organic materials such as soy and linseed oil. Additionally, newspapers are recycled at a rate of 68.22 percent compared with plastics at 8.5 percent, aluminum at 17.2 percent, rubber/leather at 18.2 percent and glass at 25 percent, according to a November 2020 report from the EPA. This is all the more reason that newspapers should be exempted from this legislation.

The proposed legislation will not increase or improve the recycling of newspapers—it will simply shift the cost of recycling from municipalities to newspapers. Newspapers are already suffering from revenue declines caused by COVID-19 and big-tech platforms. Burdening newspapers with the cost of recycling will result in layoffs, further eroding citizen access to essential local news and information.

Newspapers are good citizens, and they are cheerleaders and watchdogs for the communities they serve. New York’s newspapers will be pleased to enter into a voluntary agreement to support, promote and educate readers and community leaders about the importance of recycling. New York’s legislators should consider the devasting impact this legislation will have on newspapers, and subsequently, citizens’ access to local journalism.

We ask you, as a consumer of the newspaper, to let your state representatives know that the legislation needs to be amended to differentiate newspapers from packaging.

Michele Rae is the New York Press Association’s executive director.

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