Wednesday, June 12, 2024

An open letter to AMERIPEN and the leadership of 3M, General Mills, and Cargill – Climate Generation

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On behalf of Climate Generation, an organization in Minnesota working with high school youth and educators, we are expressing our disappointment in your lobbying efforts at the State Capitol to stop HF3577/SF3561 – the Packaging Waste and Reduction Act. At Climate Generation, the students of our Youth Environmental Activist (YEA!) high school network have been advocating for sustainable solutions that not only reduce waste, but stop feeding harmful pollutants, like the HERC trash burner in North Minneapolis. 

General Mills, Cargill, and 3M are all members of AMERIPEN, whose mission is to “Be the leading voice for the packaging industry, using science to inspire, create and advocate for sustainable solutions for the packaging value chain.” One would hope that you stay true to this mission in Minnesota, a state in which your companies call home, and welcome legislation that would reduce unnecessary packaging and the associated costs of added packaging  on our communities. 

The efforts your lobbyists are putting in to stop HF3577/SF3561 tell community members that you don’t support a bill that:

  1. Prioritizes Waste Reduction: We cannot recycle and compost our way out of this packaging crisis; we must prioritize reduction. The bill requires producers to meet targets for source reduction, reuse, recycling and composting, and post-consumer recycled content. These targets are enforced by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).
  2. Drives Packaging Redesign: Packaging producers will be charged based on the amount and type of packaging used. The less packaging a company uses, the less they will pay. There are also financial incentives for companies to reduce unnecessary packaging and use nontoxic, reusable, recyclable and compostable materials.
  3. Creates Equitable & Free Access to Recycling: Recycling is a growing financial burden for local governments and individual families. The program will provide free recycling for all Minnesotans, by requiring producers and profiters of packaging waste to reimburse local governments for the cost of these programs, rather than local taxpayers.
  4. Supports Quality Jobs: The program ensures that priority for service provider contracts is given to Minnesota companies that provide good jobs, strong safety standards, and quality services. Additionally, investments in reuse and recycling infrastructure will create new jobs across our state. The MPCA estimates that fully investing in recycling will result in over 15,000 new jobs.
  5. Strengthens Minnesota’s Economy:  Businesses are struggling to source the metal, paper, plastic, and glass needed to make new packaging and products. Meanwhile, each year Minnesota buries and burns over 1 million tons of recyclables worth an estimated $143 million. By recycling more, we can create a reliable domestic supply of recycled metal, paper, plastic, and glass to make new products. Additionally, the recycled content requirements provide stability to, traditionally unstable, commodity markets.

Research tells us that packaging waste and printed paper make up 40% of our waste stream in Minnesota, and global plastic production is expected to double over the next two decades. 

Not only are we asking that you support the efforts of passing the Packaging Waste and Reduction Act, but that you respect the science behind it. Your stance against this bill to save a few dollars is spreading a harmful message that we aren’t in a waste crisis, when in fact we are. This harmful messaging is in alignment with the fossil fuel industry and similar to the type of messaging spread by ExxonMobil, who also tried minimizing the impacts of climate change and the role they play in it. Moreover, these policy changes only represent single‒digit percentage increase to your companies in additional supply costs — a small price to pay in support of your consumers’ and our planet’s health considering each of your profits were in the billions in 2023. 

Minnesota is not the first state to consider this legislation. In fact, several other states have already implemented similar policies, as has the entire European Union. Your corporations are already abiding by these rules in other places, so why are you fighting it here, in the state in which your employees and their families work and live? The policies represented in these bills align with the sustainability priorities of each of your companies, and do not require these changes to be implemented until 2033. In the case of General Mills, this is three years later than the company has already committed to publicly. The state’s legislation also allows for a waiver should any company show they will not be able to source the necessary materials through global supply chains by the 2033 deadline.

As we continue to tackle the climate and waste crisis, collaboration becomes essential in finding effective solutions. We hope you will join us in this conversation and take the crucial steps towards improving our state’s recycling, supporting local governments, and investing more services to our communities.

B. serves as Policy Manager for Climate Generation. They are a Minneapolis Southsider and first generation graduate of the University of Minnesota. B. has several years experience in community organizing and policy work and is excited to bring their experiences in voting rights and housing advocacy to Climate Generation’s climate justice work. They believe in investing in our young leaders to build a better future and sustain movement work and have centered the voices of young people in previous campaigns. B. is a participant in the Wilder Foundation’s Community Equity Program, a nine-month political leadership cohort-based learning journey for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color community leaders and change makers.



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