June 11, 2024

Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging in the U.S.

With the establishment of extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws evolving across the US, producers are becoming legally responsible for managing the waste created from their products and packaging throughout the entire life cycle. EPR legislation mandates that producers take responsibility for collecting, recycling, and safely disposing of their products once they reach end-of-life. The idea behind EPR is to incentivize more environmentally-friendly product design and easier recyclability, as producers bear the costs of end-of-life management.

This approach aims to promote a circular economy where resources are used sustainably, and waste is minimized. The funding generated will support investments in recycling infrastructure to improve collection rates and increase recycling of packaging, paper, electronics and other difficult waste streams.

Over one hundred bills in twenty-four states were introduced in 2023, and five states, Maine, Maryland, California, Colorado, and Oregon, have enacted EPR laws for paper and plastic. 

Maine was the first to pass a state-wide EPR bill in 2021. (National Law Review). Oregon has the Plastic Pollution and Recycling Modernization Act, and California has the Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act. 

Ten states have pending EPR legislation in 2024. Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington and Hawaii all have bills awaiting signatures. 

The shift towards EPR legislation in the U.S. gives businesses and producers opportunities to embrace sustainability, drive operational efficiency, enhance their brand reputation, and position themselves for long-term success and competitive advantage in a rapidly changing business landscape. 

With the growing focus on environmental protection and sustainability, regulatory requirements related to waste management and product stewardship are becoming more stringent. Understanding and complying with EPR legislation allows businesses to avoid potential fines, penalties, and legal liabilities associated with non-compliance. Moreover, proactive engagement in EPR can help businesses stay ahead of evolving regulations, reduce regulatory risk, and enhance their reputation as responsible corporate citizens.

In a circular model where products and packaging are designed for reuse, repair, remanufacturing and recycling, the demand and need for extracting new virgin natural resources decreases significantly. As the supply of recycled materials increases through improved collection and recycling systems funded by EPR programs, their costs will decline relative to virgin materials.

Embracing EPR can provide businesses with a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Consumers are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious due to health concerns and increased extreme weather events. They are more likely to support businesses that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability. Younger generations like Millennials and Gen Z are particularly vocal about environmental issues and social responsibility. They are driving demand for sustainable products, ethical business practices, and corporate accountability.

CIRT is at the forefront of EPR research. We strive to give our customers the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about the entire lifecycle of their products and packaging. 

CIRT is a women-owned, B Corp created to promote a sustainable future through market share. Our mission is to keep recoverable materials out of landfills, the environment, and the ocean and get them into a circular system. https://www.cirt.tech/