Packaging EPR Bills Falter, Challenging Policies Remain in Play



While we won’t know until later in the year, 2022 could end with only one new packaging extended producer responsibility (EPR) law. This stands in contrast to 2021, which ended with predictions of several states following Maine and Oregon with EPR bills.

However, as of this writing, several states are consid­ering proposals that are “simpler solutions” to address packaging in the waste stream. Those concerns continue to be driven by concern over plastic pollution.

Because 2022 is an election year and inflation is at a 40-year high, however, policymakers are considering the impact of new policies on consumers. This phenomenon has driven them to look at policies that could just elimi­nate packaging types, including flexible packaging, instead of addressing it holistically.

California

Introduced in February, AB 2026 would prohibit online retailers from using single-use plastic packaging in shipping containers when shipping products in the state—effective Jan. 1, 2024, for large retailers and Jan. 1, 2026, for smaller retailers. As of this writing, this bill passed the Assembly and has momentum for potential passage.

Additionally, The California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act has been certified for the November ballot. Meanwhile, negotiations around Senate Bill 54 continue to see if key stakeholders can agree on a bill that would avoid the referendum process. This proposal would be a stripped-down version of EPR with recycling rate mandates.

Hawaii

HB 2399 is labeled as EPR but is a packaging tax on “fast-moving consumer goods.” It requires producers of fast-moving consumer goods to register with the Hawaii Department of Health and pay a $150 per ton annual fee based on packaging volume per year. The department would then distribute funds to counties, which would upgrade infrastructure, focusing on reusable and refillable packaging. This legislation passed both Chambers, but concerns were rising, and it failed to get out of conference committee.

Following a strong push for EPR in the Senate in 2021, Governor Kathy Hochul included a version of packaging EPR in her budget this year, as had the senate in its budget version. In April, the Assembly refused to include a pack­aging EPR proposal, so the final budget that passed did not include EPR.

Because 2022 is an election year and inflation is at a 40-year high, policymakers are considering the impact of new policies on consumers.

New York

As New York wraps up legislative activity, EPR for packaging, bottle bill expansion, recyclability labeling, and recycled content requirements remain in play, with different versions of stand-alone bills in the Assembly and Senate and the Governor’s office still invested.

Colorado

Introduced in March, HB 1355 would establish 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 organization to implement and manage the EPR program for covered products. Producers would have significant elements of control in implementing the program.

The initiative had bipartisan support and is backed by Recycle Colorado and the beverage industry, but other industry players opposed it.

Under this bill, producers must cover 100% of the cost of recycling for single-family and multifamily homes and businesses.

At the time of this writing, the bill passed and was awaiting the Governor’s signature.

New Jersey

In 2021, paper and packaging EPR bills failed to advance. But they were refiled for the 2022–2023 session as SB 426 and AB 1444. It appears they will be considered in 2022, but passage might not occur until 2023.


Andy Hackman is a lobbyist with Serlin Haley based in Washington, D.C.

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