More nickels and dimes

Right before they packed up, Oregon's goofy legislature passed a bill that would place substantial new financial responsibilities on businesses that produce packaging, and even those who print publications on paper. It's all in the name of that god almighty, recycling. The bill is here; OPB explains it here.

SB 582 requires producers of paper, plastic and other materials to fund new initiatives aimed at collecting and recycling more of their materials — whether via existing programs or new efforts. That includes paying for educational campaigns to help consumers better understand recycling, helping upgrade existing recycling facilities, and paying for things like trucks and new containers to help local governments expand their recycling offerings.

To fund those causes and others, producers would be required to join a “producer responsibility organization” that would charge fluctuating annual membership fees. A producer’s fees could be reduced if they lessen the environmental impact of their products.

And who will ultimately pay for all this? Consumers, of course. These corporations and their shareholders aren't going to absorb the costs; they'll just pass them on.

“It made sense to pass some of these costs on to the companies using these products in their packaging,” state Sen. Michael Dembrow, a Portland Democrat and chief sponsor of the bill, said during a debate in the Senate earlier this week. “Industry could respond by absorbing some of the costs, passing some onto consumers and, ideally, finding more biodegradable, easier-to-recycle alternatives, which would help us all.”

They "could," "ideally," do good deeds. Is there no end to the magical thinking?

I wish the folks in Salem would stop for a minute and acknowledge the outrageous cost of living in Oregon. The problem is not just a lack of cheapo apartments. Essential products are expensive, too. And for people who are counting every penny, a noticeable portion of the cost comes from feel-good green initiatives. You buy a six-pack of some soft drink, add 60 cents deposit. If you want it in a bag, that's another nickel, or a dime in some places. Now, under this new law, you'll pay an indirect fee on every packaged item you buy.

Each of those add-ons may be only a small percentage of the overall cost, but it's really starting to stack up.

Maybe we need to require a cost-of-living impact statement on all new laws. Environmental impact statements are a familiar feature of government; why not do the same for the costs to the average person? Then we can decide on the tradeoffs.

The politicians lament that people are living in tents on the sidewalks, throwing their garbage everywhere. Well, this kind of thing ain't helping. If they want to clean up Oregon, they might want to stop ratcheting up the number of people who can't afford luxury items like running water and a garbage can.


  1. As some guy famously said (can't remeber his name exactly), "Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem."


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