Date of Graduation

Winter 12-12-2018

Document Type

Project/Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Management (MSEM)

College/School

College of Arts and Sciences

Department/Program

Environmental Management

First Advisor

Thomas MacDonald PhD

Second Advisor

April Randall PhD

Abstract

This research project evaluates Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) in California as a viable option to address the end-of-life management challenges identified for compostable plastics. The evaluation is done in three ways (1) review the main challenges identified for managing compostable plastics against the existing California EPR laws for mercury thermostats, agricultural pesticide containers, carpet, paint and mattresses to look for overlap in issues EPR has been used to address, (2) review compostable plastics in the context of the Product Selection Criteria used by California, (3) Look at the California Framework for setting up an EPR program to lay out what an EPR program for compostable plastics could look like.

Implementing EPR for compostable plastics now, while the product is emerging on the market, would help producers organize around addressing the challenges their products are creating and enable them to agree on and implement solutions that would contribute to an increased ability to identify and manage compostable plastics. This would decrease contamination and unwanted material at compost and recycling facilities and help ensure these items are not disposed of in a landfill.

The outcome of the evaluations shows that EPR for compostable plastics would be successful in addressing two of the five challenges identified for compostable plastics: education and identification. When taken into consideration against other products in the waste stream, compostable plastics would not be a priority based on the initial product selection criteria provided by CalReycle. The framework shows that compostable plastics fit the mold and are able to meet the general requirements of an EPR program in California.

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