Toasting ‘American-style' EPR

Lisa McTigue Pierce, Executive Editor

January 30, 2014

4 Min Read
Toasting ‘American-style' EPR


Katie Wallace

Earlier this year, New Belgium Brewing pledged a one-time donation of $10,000 to support a cost-benefit analysis of extended producer responsibility (EPR). The research is being conducted by Recycling Reinvented (, a non-profit organization committed to increasing recycling rates of waste packaging and printed material in the U.S. through an EPR model. 

Katie Wallace, sustainability specialist and "Purveyor of the Good Life" at New Belgium Brewing, tells Packaging Digest why the Colorado-based brewer made the investment and why you should too.


Q: Why do you support the concept of business-driven extended producer responsibility (EPR)?
A: In the United States, we generate more waste than almost any other country in the world, but we recycle far less than most developed countries. Many European countries enjoy a 70 percent recycling rate, while the U.S. musters up less than half of that at 33 percent. 

At New Belgium, we are a company of innovators, and we know we live in a country with some of the most inventive people and companies in all of history. With the expertise and genius we hold in this nation, we should be leading the world in recycling rates and intelligent use of valuable and finite natural resources, not falling at the end of the line. 

EPR captures the proven power of business and applies it to an ailing system which has the potential to improve our economy and our environment while preserving long-term viability of necessary resources for business.

Q: Why did you decide to work with Recycling Reinvented?
A: The leadership at Recycling Reinvented has strong experience in private, public and non-profit sectors, and they are successfully working with an array of important stakeholders. We explored the multiple ways that a relatively small company like ours could have a meaningful impact and make efficient use of our donation, and Recycling Reinvented presented the best-fit option.

Q: How will the program increase recycling of your used packaging materials?
A: Bottle bills, which exist in a handful of states, can be effective at increasing recycling. On average a non-bottle bill state will recycle 10 to 15 percent of their glass bottles, while effective bottle bills will bring a state to a 70 percent recycling rate. The limitation here is that we are only addressing bottles. 

This is a missed opportunity for other materials, such as paper and paperboard, for example. EPR broadens the scope to affect more materials. EPR allows brands, our suppliers and recyclers to collaborate on the quality of recycled materials and the needs of the marketplace. When all brands (not just beverage companies) chip in to fund recycling according to the value and recyclability of their packaging and paper, it creates a broader base of financial support. This allows for increased supply of recycled materials and promotes more recyclable and recycled-content packaging and paper.

Q: What are the benefits of EPR for New Belgium Brewing? For other product marketers?
A: Any system that improves the environment at large, our habitat and source of life and livelihood, will help New Belgium Brewing. We, as all companies, depend upon the health of our natural resources. We've always been a values-driven business. Environmental stewardship is cemented in our Core Values & Beliefs. The ability of future generations to not only provide for themselves but to thrive and flourish is a concept we believe in whole-heartedly. The intelligent collection and reuse of our natural resources will result in a stronger economy, more jobs, as well as reduced need for mining and greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction. Our brewery will benefit from this, as will others who depend on long-term resource vitality and a strong economy.

Q: In public materials, you've made reference to an "American style" of EPR. What do you mean by that?
A: Europe and Canada introduced EPR as primarily a top-down environmental strategy. In the U.S., we are interested in this for environmental reasons, but also for economic ones. The supply of recycled materials is not currently meeting domestic and global demand. Increased recycling helps to lower commodity costs. Using EPR—as opposed to recycling funded by local governments (which comes from ratepayers and taxpayers)—makes recycling more responsive to the market. Consumers will then pay for recycling in the cost of products according to what they consume rather than according to their property.


About the Author(s)

Lisa McTigue Pierce

Executive Editor, Packaging Digest

Lisa McTigue Pierce is Executive Editor of Packaging Digest. She’s been a packaging media journalist since 1982 and tracks emerging trends, new technologies, and best practices across a spectrum of markets for the publication’s global community. Reach her at [email protected] or 630-272-1774.

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