Hearings Focus on National Framework for Extended Producer Responsibility

Hearings Focus on National Framework for Extended Producer Responsibility
Digital Exclusive

Federal hearings started March 6 in Washington, D.C., to discuss a national framework for extended producer responsibility (EPR), which proponents say would help reduce the amount of waste going into landfills and remove confusion created by a state-by-state approach to EPR.

The hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee included testimony from AMERIPEN—American Institute for Packaging and the Environment and discussions that would assign procedures for handling packaging and other waste during their life cycles, according to a statement from the office of U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, EPW chair.

“Packaging has value throughout its life cycle, and none of it belongs in landfills, roadsides, or waterways,” testified Dan Felton, AMERIPEN executive director, according to a news release from his office. “We need to recover it to be recycled and reused.”

During his comments, Carper noted that EPR initiatives are underway in several states. California, Colorado, Maine, and Oregon have passed laws and are implementing regulations this year. A federal approach would reduce conflicting regulations, supporters of national EPR have argued.

AMERIPEN, which represents the entire packaging supply chain, and the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA) have been closely following state EPR initiatives and have been concerned about the piecemeal approach because of a lack of consistency in the rules.

FPA is providing written comments that will outline its members’ concerns and explain why members of the trade association might support a national EPR approach, said Alison Keane, FPA president and CEO. With 2024 being an election year, Keane added, she does not expect much movement on legislation but is glad hearings have started.

Felton indicated in his testimony that more needs to be studied.

“A deeper discussion is merited on how uniformity may be achieved if packaging EPR continues to expand in the U.S., and whether something could or should be done at the federal level,” Felton told the committee members. “To that end, AMERIPEN would be pleased to work with federal policymakers and other stakeholders to explore the potential need and design for any federal framework or program.”

Other Voices

Felton said new regulations must include voices from all viewpoints.

“We will support thoughtful packaging EPR proposals that properly balance the needs of all stakeholders,” Felton testified. “We will not support poorly designed packaging EPR proposals that we believe are not based in reality and will not result in positive environmental change and greater packaging recovery and recycling.”

The committee also heard testimony from industry leaders, including H. Fisk Johnson III, chair and CEO of S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc.

“We need federal regulation to avoid overregulation,” Johnson said, according to a report from Carper’s office. “Efficiencies of scale matter can only come through a national regulatory framework, and continuing to accumulate landfill waste is unsustainable.”

A national approach would streamline EPR, he also said.

“I believe the only way to have an effective program is through a government regulatory framework,” Johnson told the committee.

He said federal EPR is the best approach for several reasons: Most Americans want the government to take the lead on plastic waste, and state-by-state regulations create “significant complexity, cost, and dysfunction.”

Carper, a Democrat from Delaware, said in a statement that surveys have shown that most Americans want to support sustainable purchasing choices.

For more information, visit AMERIPEN and FPA.

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