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General Mills, Procter & Gamble pressured to trim packaging [Updated]

CerealboxesThe average American generates about five pounds of trash per day, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Now a San Francisco-based nonprofit is asking some of the manufacturers who produce it to accept more responsibility for recycling it.

Last week, the environmental group As You Sow filed shareholder proposals with two of the country's largest makers of consumer packaged goods, urging Procter & Gamble and General Mills to adopt "Extended Producer Responsibility." So-called EPR programs typically establish fees requiring corporations to help pay for the reclamation and recycling of their post-consumer waste.

"It means everything you buy at a grocery store, someone would be paying fees to recycle that," said Conrad MacKerron, senior director of the corporate social-responsibility program for As You Sow. "Right now, it's haphazard by municipality whether something is recycled and who does it and how efficient it is, so [EPR] would really change the infrastructure of waste in this country in a positive way. This resolution is a first step in that direction."

A form of Extended Producer Responsibility already exists for electronic waste in many states to properly dispose of the toxic materials embedded in many electronic devices, as well as recapture valuables, such as precious metals. [Updated 5-9-11, 12:20 p.m.: The original version of this post cited California's e-waste law as an example of Extended Producer Responsibility. It is not an EPR program because consumers, rather than producers, pay for e-waste recycling in California.]

The argument for end-of-life e-waste reclamation has resulted in the adoption of 23 EPR e-waste laws throughout the country, largely because there are precious metals to be reclaimed and hazardous waste to be kept out of landfills. Establishing EPR for commodities such as cardboard could be more difficult.

"We have received a shareholder resolution on the topic, but it has not been made public, nor have we taken any public position on the issue," said Tom Forsythe, vice president of corporate communications for General Mills in Minneapolis.

Although Forsythe had no comment on General Mills' position on Extended Producer Responsibility, General Mills cereal boxes are recyclable. They are also made from 100% recycled content, at least 35% of which is post-consumer.

Procter & Gamble did not return a phone call requesting comment on the shareholder resolution. A new "future-friendly" public service campaign, however, recommends buying nonperishable items in bulk to reduce unnecessary packaging.


Can I Recycle ... ?

Wasteful packaging: Do consumers care?

The Garbage Maven: Talking trash and recycling

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: General Mills cereal boxes. Credit: Rick Bowmer / Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (9)

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I'm overseas studying right now, but I love home: California. I have to admit now having lived abroad sometime that I think we're excessively wasteful. The only people we might not lose out to would be Japan, but that's not much of a consolation when considering that they use twenty-something layers of saran, gossamer, and ribbons to wrap a tiny pastry or even a BANANA. :)

Dear General Mills: Please offer bulk sales of cereals at all retailers. that will eliminate retail packaging. thankyou

Who will conservatives blame when their kids have to wear gas masks?
Well at least they can claim to create more jobs in the breathing apparatus industry.

"Amazing how using a little common sense results in cries of "socialism'."

VERY amazing indeed. How can any thinking person not realize how wasteful this excessive packaging is? WHY would anyone not want to reduce it by whatever means possible is beyond me. Of course the simple answer is to just not buy this crap. It's highly processed and mostly sugar with some vitamins injected into it to make it "nutritious."

"Instead, trim the liberal influence from the United States."

Bet you're anti-abortion but pro-slaughter of any non-Christians, foreign or domestic

Excellent idea to reduce packaging. There's a lot of often unrecycleable plastic in it. Plastic is an oil byproduct, and oil is both getting more expensive and going away. A lot of packaging is also unnecessary in terms of packing the product and actually used primarily as a marketing tool - a miniature billboard that sits on the store shelf.

I inspected my family's garbage and found that the majority of our trash was food packaging. By eliminating most processed foods from our diet we now generate far less trash. We put our can out to be emptied once a month now rather than once a week, and that also means less idling pollution generated by the trash truck.

Amazing how using a little common sense results in cries of "socialism'.

Face it, Joe, you're a lover of socialism-- for corporations. Let's say I decide to fill my yard with concrete gnomes to improve the image of my house. When I tire of this and want to get rid of the gnomes, I say, "The taxpayers should pay for this; have the city come haul my gnomes away to a landfill for free." You'd scream "Socialism!" and rightly so.

General Mills decides to wrap all kinds of trash around their products to appeal more to consumers. When it's completed its purpose, then they say, "Let somebody else deal with this trash. Let the taxpayers pay for hauling it away." And so cities, and taxpayers, have to come up with landfills/recycling to deal with the extra trash. If GM wants the benefit of all the extra packaging, they can pay for generating and eliminating it, just like an individual would, just like in a non-socialist economic system. Gee! Is that so difficult? Remember? Individual, not collective, responsibility.

That liberal influence sure is sneaky when it hides out in the corporations. Just like Wall St gets all the benefits of their uber-risky schemes but needs their too-big-to-fail butts bailed out (corporate socialism) when the house of cards collapses. And everybody intones, "Thank God the Free Market knows what to do." Yeah, right.

Instead, trim the liberal influence from the United States.


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