Producer responsibility is a central part of Swedish environmental policy. It is an important instrument for achieving our environmental goals. However, the government has announced the abolition of producer responsibility for paper and newspaper producers. The responsibility for recycling newspapers, flyers and other printed matter instead falls on the municipalities. In the end, it is the households that have to pay, but also the environment.
The Government’s statement means that we are abandoning the environmental law principle that the polluter must pay, which the production responsibility is a clear expression of. It nullifies the whole idea that whoever puts and be on the market can also ensure that it can be recycled. This makes the transition to a circular economy impossible, as consumers can hardly afford manufacturing processes and material choices. It can have devastating consequences and is definitely not a sustainable policy.
Scrapping the producer’s responsibility for recycled paper is a bad proposal from every conceivable angle. Financially, it will be expensive for the municipalities to organize collection and recycling in a short time. Environmentally, it is risky, as no requirements are placed on manufacturers to use the recycled raw material. Socially, it will have negative consequences for the households with the worst finances, when the municipalities are forced to raise the waste tariff – it hits blindly and also affects those who do not have a subscription to paper newspapers and who have renounced direct advertising. Calculations from Avfall Sverige show that it will cost an average household between SEK 150 and 250 per year, in sparsely populated areas the bill can end up at just over SEK 500.
A revoked producer responsibility also upsets the idea of what is municipal activity. The paper producers and newspaper makers say that the market for recycled paper is too bad: now municipalities are forced to become players in this particular market, which is far from their core mission and a bad deal that will burden households financially.
According to the government, the purpose of the decision to solve the economic challenges that many newspapers face is, but it has problems completely different measures. In other words, a government with a clear focus on environmental and climate work conducts media policy at the expense of the environment. Producer responsibility is sacrificed – one of the most basic principles in environmental work, to save newspapers and the paper industry. It is not a sound environmental policy. Costs for maintaining the state’s media policy are thus transferred to municipalities and households. The municipal waste tariff is now seen as an instrument to cover costs in the state budget.
Achieving the environmental and climate goals is one of the biggest challenges we have. Producer responsibility has for decades been a tool to achieve them: It should not be confused with media policy and the issue of democracy and media survival. We cannot allow producer responsibility to be dismantled. It is needed to be able to create a sustainable society.
Muharrem Demirok (C),
municipal councilor, Linköping municipality
Gösta Gustavsson (C),
Chairman, Tekniska verken i Linköping AB