Despite waning energy earlier in the year, a late surge in interest in packaging extended producer responsibility (EPR) produced two new EPR laws. In June, Colorado and California governors signed new EPR laws. They join Maine and Oregon with EPR for packaging laws.
The law establishes a packaging EPR program under the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. By June 1, 2023, the department would have to designate a stewardship charged with implementing and managing the EPR program for covered products. Producers would have significant elements of control over the program’s implementation. These bills were authored by a bipartisan duo and supported by the Recycle Colorado organization and the beverage industry. But it was opposed by many other industry players, because packaging producers must cover 100% of the cost of recycling for single-family and multi-family homes and businesses.
An EPR-based counterproposal to the Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act that has been certified to be on the November 2022 statewide ballot for a vote was passed and signed into law on June 30, 2022. Negotiations around SB 54 had been ongoing to see if a compromise could be reached by key stakeholders to avoid the ballot process, which is ultimately what happened. The compromise includes many of the “source reduction” goals from the ballot initiative, as well a pollution mitigation fund with an EPR structure to achieve those goals and invest in recycling infrastructure.
As of this publication date, California AB 2026, which would prohibit online retailers from using single-use plastic packaging in shipping containers when shipping products in the state, would also be taken off the table as part of the SB54 compromise; this packaging would be part of the larger SB54 EPR scheme. A coalition of indus-try groups opposed its passage, given its severe impacts on commerce.
Paper and packaging EPR bills—SB 426 and AB 1444—were filed but likely will not become law in 2022. They will continue to be considered into 2023 when they are very likely to become law, similar to how the post-consumer recycled content legislation passed at the end of 2021.
New York came close to passing an EPR law for packaging in 2022. Following a strong push for EPR in the state Senate and by Governor Kathy Hochul—who included a version of packaging EPR in her executive budget—a competing and punitive version of EPR was filed in the state Assembly, and an agreement could not be reached on the legislation.
Despite all this activity, no clear model EPR bill for packaging appears to be emerging for 2022, as each state law and the proposal in California differ greatly. And there is no uniform agreement on what is the better approach from industry, environmental groups, and the waste industry.
Andy Hackman is a lobbyist with Serlin Haley based in Washington, D.C.