The 2021 state legislative sessions have focused on key policies that will squarely impact the flexible packing industry, namely post-consumer recycling (PCR) for certain packages, recyclability labeling, and extended producer responsibility (EPR). Each policy has the potential to significantly remake how flexible packaging companies conduct business.
Sen. Ben Allen has re-introduced SB 54 that will be amended to become a recycling mandate similar to efforts in the last two years. He also introduced SB 343, a bill that bans any product or packaging using deceptive or misleading claims about its recyclability, including a ban of resin identification codes that are placed inside the chasing arrows symbol, unless the product is currently recyclable in California—a dangerous precedent for intrastate commerce. The bills moved out of initial committees before the real work begins on them over the summer.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) sponsored legislation on EPR for packaging in the form of HB 2065 and SB 581. The measures, as now combined, expand access to the current recycling system, have producer-funded upgrades to the facilities, give DEQ the ability to create a statewide list of accepted materials, create strict labeling standards, and allow for the creation of a Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO), but with multiple fees on the PRO to finance the current recycling and system upgrades. DEQ seemed to be attempting to marry several, often conflicting, priorities, but many in the industry, including FPA, believe that the approach is overly prescriptive and ultimately flawed for bringing real system change to recycling in the state.
Washington started 2021 with an expansive EPR bill. After numerous rounds of amendments, the bill establishes PCR requirements for plastic household cleaning and personal care products, trash bags, beverage containers, and food service ware. It also was amended to establish a stakeholder advisory committee to make recommendations on the development of PCR requirements for all plastic packaging. A final bill was signed by the governor in May.
New York moved the most aggressively on EPR for packaging on the East Coast so far in 2021. Sen. Todd Kaminsky, chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, sponsored S.1185. Assemblyman Steve Englebright sponsored A.5801, which mirrors S.1185. Significant amendments have been made. However, substantial issues remain. In addition, key differences are being worked on between the two versions of the bill. If these differences can be worked out, it is expected that the bill might pass in 2021.
Delegate Brooke Lierman, vice-chair of the Environment and Transportation Committee, proactively reached out to industry players to work on amendments to her EPR for packaging legislation, House Bill 36. This outreach was constructive and resulted in near “model” EPR legislation being introduced. FPA supported the bill. However, the Maryland General Assembly adjourned its 90-day session before there was enough time for the bill to move and become law.
In Maine, competing versions of EPR legislation were presented by Rep. Nicole Grohoski, working with environmental organizations, and Sen. James Dill, working with a broad packaging industry coalition, including FPA. Each bill takes a different EPR approach to create a framework that ensures that funding improves recycling in Maine. In late April, the industry-sponsored packaging bill, SP 474 (LD 1471), was released first and referred to the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (ENR). It was followed by HP 1146 (LD 1541) and referred to ENR. The Committee was working on the bills before the legislature adjourned in June, and it wasn’t known by press time if a law was passed.
Andy Hackman is a lobbyist with Serlin Haley based in Washington, D.C.