In the past three years, four states have passed separate extended producer responsibility (EPR) bills for packaging that are now in the implementation stages. Each program is structured differently with various requirements, which can create confusion.
These differences and the pending regulations that are now under development will have direct impacts across the packaging supply chain. And now, the first producer responsibility organization (PRO) has been appointed in Colorado—Circularity Action Alliance—and that organization has stated it is interested in applying for PRO roles in other states.
During this critical regulatory development phase, it is important that packaging industry players are engaged to ensure key technical issues are addressed while there is still time. Below is a quick snapshot of where each of these states are in the implementation process.
The contract for the needs assessment has also been granted, with Colorado expected to have it completed by January. The advisory board has been holding monthly board meetings during which they discuss the packaging program and the rulemaking process that will be completed in 2024.
Oregon has been fleshing out regulations for its packaging EPR law. The state Department of Environmental Quality has drafted and received comments on its “Rule #1” regulations. These rules address what materials will be considered recyclable in Oregon, as well as how producers will ensure responsible end markets for recycled materials. This year, “Rule #2” is being released, and input will be taken into 2024.
Maine has now completed nine stakeholder listening sessions on key topics and will be developing regulations by the end of December. These topics included how local governments will be paid for recycling packaging if certain packages would be considered readily recyclable in Maine and how recycling infrastructure will be developed. The next step this fall is seeking public comment on regulatory concepts before the proposal of regulations in December.
California’s department, CalRecycle, held six informal workshops that have given insight into potential rules and changes in definitions for Senate Bill 54. The advisory board has also been chosen, which comprises 13 voting members and three nonvoting members. CalRecycle created a website, calrecycle.ca.gov, for the needs-assessment process, which will be completed by 2025. The formal rulemaking process will start in 2024, and the department will publish the list of recyclable and compostable materials.
In the big picture, these four states are breaking new ground in the United States, and they will be setting precedents for states that will follow. They are collaborating to harmonize as much as possible. Time will tell if that is possible and if packaging producers will be able to easily comply in all four jurisdictions. Luckily, there will be a pause in adding any more EPR states this year because 2023 will likely not see any new packaging EPR requirements placed into law.
Lauren Aguilar is a government affairs associate at the firm Serlin Haley, a lobbyist for FPA based in Washington, D.C. Andy Hackman also is a lobbyist with Serlin Haley.