Ever wondered about the impact of internet shopping on the environment? Me neither, but thankfully the folks over at Gotham Gazette are all over it. On the plus side, there are fewer vehicle-miles logged shopping. On the negative side, there’s lots and lots and lots of recycling: Cardboard boxes, styrofoam, packaging, etc.

I like this idea:

In the meantime, organizations such as INFORM, a Wall Street-based non-profit firm promoting "strategies for a better environment," advocate a European-style system that shifts responsibility for waste processing of worn-out products and packaging away from municipalities and consumers and back onto the producers themselves.

"It’s kind of like a welfare system that we’ve generated for manufacturers here in the U.S.," says Lloyd Hicks, director of INFORM’s solid waste prevention program.

Hicks holds up Germany as the most obvious counterexample. In 1991, the government mandated that manufacturers and distributors take back all transport packaging, including expanded foam and blister wrap. Manufacturers that don’t wish to process such materials can opt out via Green Dot, a non-profit program that finances packaging-material recycling. To gain membership in the program, companies pay a scaled fee depending on the amount of material recycled. Once in, they earn the right to put the Green Dot logo on their packages, making their products more desirable to distributors who might otherwise bear the recycling responsibility.

"They’ve found a way to deliver the same products with less packaging," says Hicks. "That’s one reason we believe there should be a way to provide a similar system in the U.S."

NB: I edited the above excerpt to remove several egregious typos and grammatical errors. Methinks the Gotham Gazette needs a new copy editor.

(Hat tip: reader Sarah I.)