Packaging Waste: 2 States Tackle Producer Responsibility

Packaging Waste: 2 States Tackle Producer Responsibility

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Currently, a producer serving the United States has little incentive to think about what occurs to its merchandise after the top of their helpful life. Proper disposal, be it recycling or landfilling, is the accountability of customers and their native disposal and recycling companies. Two states have handed new legal guidelines that can prolong that accountability to the producer – particularly, for accountable disposal of packaging supplies.

Who Is Responsible for Our Packaging Waste?

About 28% of U.S. municipal solid waste was containers and packaging in 2018, totaling greater than 82 million tons. And sadly, nicely below half of all packaging is recycled. Plastics, specifically, are particularly problematic.

Whereas recycling some supplies, corresponding to aluminum, is cost-effective, it’s more expensive to recycle plastic than to send it to a landfill. Plastics are tough to recycle and produce low-value supplies with little market demand. Unlike metal, aluminum, and glass, plastic just isn’t infinitely recyclable and the supplies can solely be used two or thrice. Sometimes, packaging has a combination of supplies, requiring it to be disassembled or else pitched within the trash. For many causes, it’s cheaper and simpler for producers to make use of virgin plastics.

For years, the burden of recycling has fallen on native governments that should pay for applications and a recycling assortment system. Therefore, customers pay for recycling by taxes and person charges.

However, there’s a rising motion to hold producers responsible for the waste they generate. Two new prolonged producer accountability (EPR) legal guidelines in Oregon and Maine will take impact within the subsequent few years. If profitable, they may get monetary savings for municipalities and make packaging extra sustainable.

“With this new regulation, Oregon ratepayers can be supplied a way more accessible, accountable, and secure recycling system,” said Scott Cassel, CEO and founding father of the Product Stewardship Institute. “It can even present producers with the monetary incentive to make their packaging extra sustainable, and native communities with funding for reuse and waste prevention applications.”

Extended Producer Responsibility Laws in OR and ME

These legal guidelines maintain producers accountable for the waste related to their merchandise by paying charges akin to the quantity and recyclability of the waste. This cash will instantly profit recycling initiatives in every state by funding recycling facility enhancements, higher assortment companies, and recycling training.

In Maine, the laws particularly addresses packaging and has producers paying the whole price of packaging recycling. Municipalities ought to begin receiving their first payments by 2027, if not sooner. In Oregon, the waste in question is a bit broader and will additionally embrace flyers, meals service ware, and plastic baggage, however producers are accountable for solely about 25% of the associated fee. This regulation will take to take impact in mid-2025.

The producer charges will range relying on the convenience of recyclability, use of post-consumer recycled content material, and the environmental impacts of the supplies. Thus, the legal guidelines deal with among the points which have plagued the recycling business: the huge array of assorted supplies, the toxicity of some supplies, the large amount of supplies within the waste stream, and the burden on native governments.

Currently, producers have little motivation to fret in regards to the disposal and sustainability of their merchandise. Why? They don’t must foot the invoice or take again their merchandise for accountable disposal. Ideally, the charges these legal guidelines will impose on firms will add a monetary incentive for them to make use of extra sustainable packaging.

“Maine’s method of charging manufacturers and producers to pay cities for recycling companies is an enchancment over applications that give all the operational and materials management to producers, the place the fox is instantly in control of the hen home,” said Martin Bourque, government director of Berkeley’s Ecology Center.

The particulars for EPR in Maine and Oregon are nonetheless taking form; there gained’t be tangible outcomes for a number of years. However, the laws appears promising for lowering waste on the supply.

EPR Laws Exist Across the Globe

Although Maine and Oregon are the primary states within the U.S. to create EPR legal guidelines for packaging, this idea is widespread in Europe. The overwhelming majority of European international locations have such legal guidelines, as do Brazil, Australia, Japan, Korea, Russia, and far of Canada. And many of those legal guidelines should not new.

For instance, in Korea, the federal government launched an EPR system in 2000, which incorporates packaging plus lubricants, tires, batteries, electronics, and fluorescent gentle bulbs.

In the U.S., some states have EPR laws for certain goods like tires, mattresses, automotive batteries, and electronics — however not packaging — and so they range broadly by location. Several states have proposed EPR legal guidelines, together with California, New York, and Massachusetts, so the idea is prone to acquire velocity throughout the nation. Potentially, these legal guidelines may impression extra items, corresponding to tires, batteries, and electronics.

Will EPR Laws Reduce Waste?

Because the brand new laws hasn’t actually taken impact, now we have no knowledge but for Maine and Oregon. And as a result of Maine and Oregon have comparatively small populations in comparison with different states, the brand new legal guidelines may create much less of an incentive for producers to make vital leaps in sustainable packaging. Critics say EPR legal guidelines have to be robust sufficient to actually maintain producers accountable with ample accountability measures.

We can take a look at comparable legal guidelines to get a way of how efficient they’ve been. For instance, a mattress take-back regulation in Connecticut increased recycling rates from 8.7% to 63.5%. An $11.25 charge funds this system on the level of sale. However, package deal recycling is extra complicated than mattress recycling for a number of causes, together with these talked about above.

Will the brand new EPR legal guidelines in Maine and Oregon obtain what they’re meant to do? If they do, they are going to be a wonderful method to save taxpayer {dollars}, spur innovation, and create a extra sustainable world. Because EPR legal guidelines require producer accountability for a product’s end-of-life, they may encourage waste discount. And if extra states be a part of the motion, much more waste may very well be decreased. But time will inform. In the meantime, you may assist by encouraging your elected officials to assist EPR legal guidelines in your state.

Feature picture credit score: Joaquin Corbalan –