EPR is trending in the Mid-Atlantic, with bills in various stages of becoming law in three states: New York, New Jersey, and Maryland.
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging bills are the new battleground in the fight to rid our bodies, communities, and the environment from the onslaught of plastic pollution.
EPR for packaging bills attempt to comprehensively address many plastic items that have not been targeted yet, like yogurt cups, chip bags, food pouches, shipping packaging, and much more. A well crafted EPR bill can reduce the amount of toxic chemicals and packaging produced, of waste created—and increase recycling and reuse rates.
Reducing both the manufacturing of new materials, and the amount of waste that needs to be disposed of, reduces harmful impacts to underserved communities, which host a disproportionate amount of these industrial facilities.
Another main point about EPR bills is that they switch the financial burden of dealing with the disposal, recycling, and cleanup of these products from local government waste management programs and taxpayers—back onto the manufacturers that produce them.
Forcing the taxpayer to foot the bill for these products is not only unfair, it leads to more waste. Hard or impossible-to-recycle packaging--and very little reusable packaging--is what we get when manufacturers aren’t incentivized to consider sustainability or the costs of managing waste when designing their products.
Senate Bill 222 passed the Maryland legislature in April, and awaits the governor's signature. This bill was always right on the edge of not being good enough for our support, and got hacked to pieces right before the end of the legislative session. For that reason, we are not claiming victory at the passage of this bill, as it is not clear exactly what the outcomes will be from its passage.
Instead of setting up a whole EPR program, Maryland’s bill sets up an advisory council that will send EPR recommendations to the governor and legislature. The bill also directs the Maryland Department of the Environment to conduct an analysis of recycling and waste markets and infrastructure in the state, as well as analyze EPR program options, to inform any future EPR legislation. Lastly, it sets up a Producer Responsibility Organization to also inform the process going forward.
New Jersey Bills A1444 and S426 were introduced last year, and include pretty good language for an effective EPR program. However, the prime sponsor of the bills wants to simplify them to be much narrower, perhaps moving into something less like a full EPR program and more like a specific waste reduction bill. We are still waiting to see that new bill language.
New York Bills A5322 and S4246 are excellent examples of well thought out and effective EPR for packaging programs. Surfrider is excited to push these bills forward and hopefully pass them this session, to be examples for the rest of the country of what an EPR for packaging program should look like.
These bills are complicated, if you want to learn more about them check out this explanation and this chart, both from our partners at Beyond Plastic. Please help us get these bills across the finish line by adding your name to our petition!