Two states — Maine and Oregon — have recently enacted extended producer responsibility (EPR) legislation that makes packaging producers (i.e., CPG brands) financially responsible for funding the recycling of their products.
In Maine, the law will establish an EPR program, which will require producers of packaged goods to bear most of the costs of recycling and waste disposal programs in the state. Brand owners selling packaged goods will pay fees on all packaging materials based on the costs of recycling for each material. The fee structure will include financial incentives for recyclable and more sustainable packaging.
While the law covers most consumer packaged goods in Maine, some exceptions include beverage containers (covered by the state’s container deposit program), long-term storage containers, paint containers, and other materials. The EPR program will use producer payments to cover operational costs, pay department fees, and make investments in consumer education, product collection, and recycling infrastructure to reduce future packaging waste in Maine.
In Oregon, the law establishes a producer responsibility program for packaging, paper products, and food service ware. Brand owners selling packaged products will pay fees to support the improvement and expansion of recycling programs and infrastructure statewide. The fees will be based on several factors, including recyclability, use of post-consumer recycled content, and the life-cycle impacts of the materials. The largest producers will be required to perform life-cycle assessments on 1% of their products every two years.
Under the new Oregon program, CPG company payments will cover about one-quarter of the costs of an efficient recycling system. In contrast, Maine’s law covers all recycling costs. Producers under Oregon’s law will not cover the costs of collection, which will continue to be paid for by residential and commercial customers. Like Maine, Oregon’s program will exclude beverage containers covered under its existing container deposit rules.
Similar EPR laws are on the books in many European countries and some Canadian provinces. Several other U.S. states — California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont — have introduced packaging EPR bills, which did not move forward but could be resurrected in the future.
Having several differing EPR regulations at the state level does complicate compliance for the packaging industry. States counter that argument saying they need customized EPR programs based on their specific economies, infrastructure, and governing bodies. Other proponents are calling for a federal approach to EPR packaging regulations, such as was proposed in the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act.
Berlin Packaging helps our customers navigate the evolving sustainability landscape by determining their applicability and exposure to new packaging laws, assisting with PCR sourcing and integration into their packaging portfolio, calculating life-cycle emissions, proposing reuse/refill packaging options, providing sustainability reporting and communications, and more.