EPR Expert: Register and Prepare Now for Packaging Regulations

EPR Expert: Register and Prepare Now for Packaging Regulations
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Companies that expect to be covered producers under the extender producer responsibility (EPR) laws in California, Colorado, and/or Oregon should register by July 1, 2024, with the producer responsibility organization (PRO) that will implement the laws, according to acting staff of the PRO involved with those programs.

Companies can register by going to the website of the Circular Action Alliance (CAA), which is the PRO, says John Hite, CAA’s regulatory and stakeholder engagement adviser. CAA, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit, has been approved to be the single PRO in California and Colorado and is the only PRO intending to submit a program plan to Oregon.

The three states are in various stages of rulemaking for how their EPR programs will work. Even though CAA does not have all the details, CAA must be proactive to ensure smooth implementation, Hite says during a webinar held March 20, 2024, and sponsored by AMERIPEN—American Institute for Packaging and the Environment.

California Is a Guide

Along those lines, Hite recommends that companies familiarize themselves with California’s EPR law, Senate Bill (SB) 54, particularly the 98 materials in its covered material category list.

The California list is more detailed than other state’s reporting categories, so that is a good place for companies to start, he explains. That list has five main categories: glass and ceramic, meta, paper and fiber, plastic, and wood and other organics. Under those categories, various “forms” and “material types” are then identified, including 37 forms for plastics alone such as “flexible and film items,” “rigid items,” and “mailing pouches and shipping envelopes.”

When the EPR programs are fully operational, covered producers will then pay fees to cover their impact on the waste stream. That makes it especially important for producers to take the initiative and register by July 1, 2024, he says, adding that CAA is setting some deadlines ahead of what the states mandate to stay ahead with the implementation.

“Besides registering with CAA, they should start exploring those 98 covered material categories in California. That is the No. 1 thing that a producer can be doing right now,” Hite says during his 90-minute presentation. “Strictly from a producer’s perspective, if you are likely to be an obligated producer under SB54 in California, start to understand your packaging portfolio, understand the materials that you are supplying into California, and start to see how those line up against those 98 categories.”

Know Your Obligations

He further recommends that companies ensure they have data management in place and know who will oversee compliance.

“Those are really critical steps that you can take,” Hite says. Others in the value chain who might not have direct obligations for reporting or paying fees still might be impacted, he adds.

“Talk with your clients, talk with your customers. Make sure that they understand what their obligations are going to be under the statutes and that they are starting to think through what reporting and fee payment is going to look like,” he says. “Make sure they understand how their packaging portfolio lines up against those 98 categories in California. That is also a really critical step.”

Compliance with packaging-related items might fall to converters and suppliers of packaging, not necessarily to the brand owners. So, stakeholders all along the value chain need to know about the laws and pay attention, he adds.

CAA also has been selected as the PRO in Maryland, where an EPR law still is being developed, Hite says. (Maine also passed an EPR law and is developing the details of its program.)

More Presentations

Hite’s presentation was the second in a five-part series sponsored by AMERIPEN this year. AMERIPEN’s first seminar on February 21, 2024, included presentations from regulators from California, Colorado, Oregon, and Maine. In July 2025, Colorado and Oregon are expected to start collecting fees for their EPR programs.

The webinars are free for AMERIPEN members, and registration can be completed at AMERIPEN’s website. Nonmembers can pay $100 per webinar. Also, government agencies or nongovernmental organizations can get a 50% discount.

AMERIPEN will hold the remaining sessions at 1 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time) on these dates:

  • April 17, 2024: Services to Help Collect and Report Data and Manage Fees
  • May 22, 2024: Learnings from Needs Assessments
  • June 26, 2024: Lessons Learned from Brands and PROs

Thomas A. Barstow is senior editor of FlexPACK VOICE®.