Robert F. Kennedy Jr. sat down with Video4Good at the 2012 COMMIT!Forum in New York.  In an extended interview, Kennedy discusses his career in the environmental movement and the impacts of business on the planet.  He explores the roots of environmental problems, analyzes the current situation and offers solutions for creating a healthy, prosperous future for society and the natural world.

In this video, Part Eight of the interview, he compares how Europe and the US differ in terms of how corporations are accountable for pollution and waste.


Anywhere you see pollution you’re also going to see the subversion of democracy and the subversion of free market capitalism.  You show me a polluter, I’ll show you a subsidy.  I’ll show you a fat cat using political clout to escape the discipline of the free market and force the public to pay its production costs.  It’s true in oil, it’s true in coal, it’s true in factory farming and it’s also true in recycling.

In Europe, they have different rules.  The person who produces the waste or the entity that produces the waste has to show that they’ve recovered or recycled or reused the waste that they input into the stream of commerce.  Anything that they don’t recover, they’ve got to pay for its disposal.  The system they have there is called EPR, Enhanced Producer Responsibility and it says okay, if you produce it, we’re going to make you responsible for recovering it.

In our country, we did that on a little basis, on a small basis.  We did it with bottles but only some kind of bottles because there’s certain drinks which have good lobbyist so they don’t have to pay the nickel deposit.  Many of our health problems are coming from sugar drinks but they don’t pay for disposing, they don’t pay to recover their bottles.  Some companies do, beer companies don’t usually and so there’s big huge loopholes in that system. Plus the biggest producers of plastic, bottles, bottled water and soda is a tiny, tiny part of that stream of commerce.  If you go look in your refrigerator, you’re going to see a ketchup bottle there, a mustard bottle, a mayonaise bottle, all these little containers that are made of plastic and that’s where the big plastic stream is coming from that ends up in the Pacific gyre, floating around the Pacific Ocean, killing sea turtles and all of this stuff that we need to get rid of. 

So, we need a system that, like they have in Europe, that collects all of the waste and that makes it profitable for people to recover it, and that uses free market mechanisms to rationalize the marketplace so people are doing good things, and can make money by doing good things for our society rather than making money by polluting our society.