I think all manufacturers should be required to mark their output with an identifier, and should be required to accept it for return at any retail or wholesale outlet of that product, at no (direct) cost to the returner.
They should also be liable, simply and directly, for any inappropriate disposal.
This would get rid of a lot of McDonalds wrappers and Coke cans from the sides of the roads, and would massively reduce unnecessary packaging. Deposits would start being asked for and returned by manufacturers, as the cost of such systems would be lower than the risk of the many thousands of littering fines they would otherwise suffer. It would obviously have to be phased in over several years, but governments would make an absolute killing out of the slowpokes, so enforcement would be no problem.
“Anonymous” products should be illegal; much of today’s packaging is unidentifiable as to producer. For example, butcher’s paper: Either the manufacturers of such paper would have to mark it and take responsibility for it (putting the cost of their product up, but saving the butcher responsibility for it, for which the butcher might be happy to pay), or the butcher would have to mark it before using it.
(Originally written in April 2007)
The best way to tackle waste, is one that few places if any have had the courage to implement, namely a requirement on manufacturers to take absolute responsibility for their products and packaging.
This would be three pronged – you (the producer) must accept all packaging and the product itself back for disposal at no cost, though the cost can be built into the sell price. For imports, read “importer” for “producer”. You must provide reasonable means for the return of your packaging and your product, and you are responsible for any of your discarded products or packaging.
Only if another person – a specific person – can be not only shown to be responsible but actually be held responsible, can the producer escape that last one (so littering by others is still an offence)
Production of anonymous products would need to be made illegal – the producer’s name must be in the substance of the item and the packaging (embossed, watermarked, whatever). The sale of anonymous products would also need to be made illegal. The interesting thing is that pretty water-tight laws could be drafted relatively easily (trivial compared with the current laws and regulations covering product identity and packaging).
There above would lead to an extremely rapid move by manufacturers of all stripes to biodegradable packaging, deposit systems and above all less packaging. And it would probably cause a renaissance in local production, and many, many new markets.
(Originally written in August 2006)