Sen. Kennedy wants online retailers to reduce packaging

Wednesday, Dec 23, 2015

Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr., D-Branford, has a piece of advice this holiday season for online retailers: cut down on the packaging.

Kennedy plans to introduce legislation in the coming session that would target the thousands of pounds of packing material that end up in the state's landfills each day.

"Whatever we come up with we want it to be effective, efficient and administratively not burdensome," he said Tuesday.

It's a common sight around the holidays – piles of boxes filling a front hallway or closet – and it's only gotten worse as online shopping continues to grow. According to the National Retail Federation, shoppers will spend $105 billion online this holiday season.

Discarded packaging materials make up about a third of the waste that municipalities have to pay to get rid of, according to Kennedy, so there's a financial incentive as well.

"Transfer stations are inundated," he said. "The towns are bearing the expense."

States including Rhode Island and California have looked at the issue of packaging waste, Kennedy said, and 15 countries in the European Union require manufacturers and shippers to cover the costs of collecting and recycling packaging.

The exact legislation hasn't been drawn up, but Kennedy said options include limiting the size of boxes used for shipping or requiring them to be made from recyclable material. Another idea is to create a labeling system so customers can request so-called "frustration-free" packaging that is easier to open and which uses fewer materials.

A program in which companies are given incentives for reducing packaging waste – similar to programs that helped increase the recycling of paints, mattresses and electronics – is also under consideration.

Sen. Clark Chapin of New Milford, the ranking Republican on the environment committee, said he supports Kennedy's proposal but wants to see it implemented in a way that isn't onerous for businesses.

The legislation should "incentivize people to do the right thing, not penalize them for doing the wrong thing," Chapin said.

Kennedy said it's important to work with businesses and point out companies that are already taking initiatives to reduce packaging materials on their own. He used the example of Chapman Manufacturing in Durham, where packing materials include shredded scrap paper and junk mail.

"We think purchasing, stocking and using packing material all to be shipped once and thrown out is wasteful," Tracy Camassar, owner of the company, said in a statement.

"We have to come up with some creative solutions to this growing problem," Kennedy said.

Kennedy is serving his first term in the Senate but was named co-chairman of the environment committee upon his election. His predecessor, Ed Meyer, a Democrat from Guilford, also held the position.

A graduate of the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Kennedy said he's always been interested in environmental issues and believes the people in his district – which includes the shoreline towns of Guilford, Madison and Branford – feel the same way.

In the last session, he pushed for legislation that would have phased out single-use plastic shopping bags in Connecticut. The bill, which had bipartisan support among environment committee members, wasn't brought up for a vote by the full Senate.

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