PACKAGING EPR LAWS COMPARISON SERIES: RESPONSIBLE PARTY & GOVERNANCE (PART THREE)  

In the last two years, packaging Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation was enacted in four states. So how do they compare? In this summary comparison, we look at similarities and differences in the laws, which will impact new legislation that we expect to be introduced in a significant number of states in the coming year. This is the third in a multi-part blog series, which analyzes the four packaging EPR laws.  

We used PSI’s Elements of Effective EPR Legislation to compare the laws in Maine, Oregon, Colorado, and California. Our elements use the following criteria:  

  • covered materials/products  
  • covered entities  
  • collection and convenience   
  • responsible party (i.e. “producer”)  
  • governance, funding inputs  
  • funding allocation  
  • design for environment  
  • performance standards  
  • outreach and education requirements  
  • equity and environmental justice  
  • implementation timeline  
  • key definitions  
  • additional components

For brevity, our analysis of these four laws did not include the following elements: enforcement and penalties for violation, stewardship plan contents, and annual report contents.  

This blog is part three in our multi-part series. It focuses on whether or not there are unique provisions and/or exemptions in the legislation related to the “producer” responsible for funding and managing the EPR program; it also lays out each state’s criteria for determining the governance roles: program operations, administration, multi-stakeholder input, oversight, and enforcement.  

For analysis of covered materials and products, please read part one; for a summary of covered materials, collection and convenience standards, please read part two.

MAINE: ARE THERE UNIQUE PROVISIONS AND/OR EXEMPTIONS FOR PRODUCERS AND WHAT IS THE GOVERNANCE STRUCTURE? 

UNIQUE PROVISION 

An entity that re-packages a product for resale is the producer of the added packaging.  

PRODUCER EXEMPTIONS 

  • Small businesses (<1 ton pkg or <$2m gross revenue) are exempt. 
  • Mid-sized businesses (<$5 million gross revenue/year) are exempt for first three years. 
  • Producers of perishable food with <15 tons of packaging are exempt.   
  • Businesses with at least >50% revenue from salvage, closeouts, bankruptcies, and/or liquidations are exempt. 

GOVERNANCE CRITERIA 

  • One Stewardship Org (SO): Potential SOs – can be for- or non-profit – submit bids to DEP that include program plans; DEP selects and contracts with one SO and approves its plan.  
  • SO Board(s) not dictated in statute.  
  • Advisory Council: Another shorter option – There is no Advisory Council. SO administers program, but rulemaking does call for various mechanisms to allow for ongoing stakeholder involvement.  
  • Plan Oversight: SO is a contractor to Maine DEP, must get approval for all program expenditures. 

OREGON: ARE THERE UNIQUE PROVISIONS AND/OR EXEMPTIONS FOR PRODUCERS AND WHAT IS THE GOVERNANCE STRUCTURE? 

UNIQUE PROVISIONS 

  • Un-branded packaging: The producer is the manufacturer of the packaged item (the product inside the packaging).  
  • Shipping packaging: The producer is the person that packages or ships a product to a consumer. 
  • “All other packaging”: The producer is the first distributor into the state.  
  • Printed publications: The producer is the publisher; newspapers and magazines can provide in-kind advertising in lieu of some or all fees. 
  • Food service ware: The producer is the person that first sells in or into the state. 

PRODUCER EXEMPTIONS 

  • Small businesses (<1 ton covered materials or <$5m gross revenue) are exempt. 
  • Restaurants, food carts, and similar food service businesses, if they do not produce branded food service ware, are exempt. 
  • Producers whose products are covered under the bottle bill and distribute less than five tons of other packaging into the state are exempt. 

GOVERNANCE CRITERIA 

  • One or more PRO(s), must be 501 (c)(3) nonprofit/s; each submits stewardship plan(s) to the state.  
  • PRO Board(s) not dictated in statute.  
  • Advisory Council: Seventeen voting members appointed by the Governor and two non-voting legislators.  
  • Plan Oversight: Oregon DEQ may suspend plan approval if major violations occur. 

COLORADO: ARE THERE UNIQUE PROVISIONS AND/OR EXEMPTIONS FOR PRODUCERS AND WHAT IS THE GOVERNANCE STRUCTURE? 

UNIQUE PROVISIONS 

  • Un-branded packaging: The producer is the manufacturer of the packaged item (the product inside the packaging).  
  • Shipping packaging: The producer is the person that packages or ships a product to a consumer. 
  • “All other packaging”: The producer is the first distributor into the state.  
  • International Imports: The first company that imports into the U.S. is the producer. 
  • Printed publications: The producer is the publisher; newspapers and magazines/periodicals can provide in-kind advertising in lieu of some or all fees. 

PRODUCER EXEMPTIONS 

  • Small businesses (< 1 ton covered materials or <$5m gross revenue not including on-premises alcohol sales) are exempt; rulemaking to adjust dollar threshold in 2023 & annually thereafter. 
  • State & local governments are exempt. 
  • Nonprofits are exempt. 
  • Agricultural employers with <$5m gross revenue from in-state consumer sales are exempt. 
  • Individual businesses operating physical retail food establishment are exempt. 
  • Builders, construction companies, and construction contractors are exempt.  

GOVERNANCE CRITERIA 

  • One PRO to start – CDPHE may approve another in 2029; must be 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) nonprofit. 
  • PRO Board must include non-voting members from trade associations, membership must reflect diversity in size and type, and board meetings are subject to public notice. 
  • The Advisory Board will be created by CDPHE and will be comprised of 13 voting members plus two nonvoting liaisons from CDPHE and the PRO.  
  • Plan Oversight: State approves plan after input from advisory board; legislative budget committee must approve program goals recommended by needs assessment before initial plan is developed.  

CALIFORNIA: ARE THERE UNIQUE PROVISIONS AND/OR EXEMPTIONS FOR PRODUCERS AND WHAT IS THE GOVERNANCE STRUCTURE? 

There are no unique provisions in California’s law. 

PRODUCER EXEMPTIONS 

  • Small businesses (<$1m gross revenue) are exempt. 
  • Producers of agricultural commodities are exempt. 

GOVERNANCE CRITERIA 

  • One PRO to start: Must be 501(c)(3) nonprofit; CalRecycle may approve additional PROs in 2031.  
  • PRO Board must include non-voting members from material trade associations and companies. 
  • Advisory Board is appointed by CalRecycle with 13 voting and three non-voting members.  
  • Plan Oversight: State may withdraw PRO approval if requirements are not met. 

COMMONALITIES IN PRODUCER DEFINITIONS 

Producers are primarily the brand owners of products that use covered materials (i.e., the brand owner of the product inside the packaging). For products whose brand owner has no physical presence in the U.S., the producer is the importer, such as: 

  • Manufacturers selling packaged products or covered paper products under their own brands, or unbranded. 
  • Licensees of brands or trademarks if the product manufacturer is not the brandowner (except Maine). 
  • First importer of a packaged product or covered paper product using covered materials that sells or distributes it into the state . 

COMMON ELEMENTS OF GOVERNANCE ACROSS ALL LAWS 

  • Except in Oregon, producers may comply individually if they choose, rather than joining a PRO/SO, although there are specific requirements related to this in Colorado and California laws. In Maine, producers may also comply individually subject to a state-approved alternative collection program. 
  • Except in Maine, an Advisory Council or Board provides input to the state and PRO/s on stewardship plans, annual reports, covered materials lists, needs assessments, and other elements.  
  • The SO/PRO submits stewardship plan to the state for review and approval.  
  • The state conducts enforcement and may issue civil penalties for noncompliance. 

PACKAGING EPR LAWS COMPARISON SERIES: COVERED ENTITIES, COLLECTION & CONVENIENCE (PART TWO)  

In the last two years, packaging Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation was enacted in four states. So how do they compare? In this summary comparison, we look at similarities and differences in the laws, which will impact new legislation that we expect to be introduced in a significant number of states in the coming year. This is second in a multi-part blog series, which analyzes the four packaging EPR laws.  

We used PSI’s Elements of Effective EPR Legislation to compare the laws in Maine, Oregon, Colorado, and California. Our elements use the following criteria:  

  • covered materials/products  
  • covered entities  
  • collection and convenience   
  • responsible party (i.e. “producer”)  
  • governance, funding inputs  
  • funding allocation  
  • design for environment  
  • performance standards  
  • outreach and education requirements  
  • equity and environmental justice  
  • implementation timeline  
  • key definitions  
  • additional components

For brevity, our analysis of these four laws did not include the following elements: enforcement and penalties for violation, stewardship plan contents, and annual report contents.  

This blog is part two in our multi-part series. It focuses on covered entities, and collection and convenience standards in each state. For analysis of covered materials and products, please read part one.

MAINE: WHAT ENTITIES ARE COVERED? WHAT IS THE MINIMUM LEVEL OF COLLECTION CONVENIENCE THAT A STEWARDSHIP PLAN MUST PROVIDE TO COVERED ENTITIES?

All entities served by local governments (residential and commercial), including schools and public places, are covered. 

EPR model: Municipal Reimbursement  

Infrastructure: Stewardship organization (SO) may expand collection infrastructure as needed using funds leftover after municipal reimbursements and administrative costs are covered.  

Convenience standards: N/A  

Statewide List: Develop statewide list. Municipalities will have to provide for collection of the full suite of materials identified as “readily recyclable” to participate in program. The process for creating the statewide list will be developed during rulemaking.  

Alternative Collection Programs: Allows for the establishment of “alternative collection program/s” for covered materials, as approved by DEP. Producers may establish their own collection and processing systems for covered materials and do not have to pay fees into the state program for any material collected through their own programs.

OREGON: WHAT ENTITIES ARE COVERED? WHAT IS THE MINIMUM LEVEL OF COLLECTION CONVENIENCE THAT A STEWARDSHIP PLAN MUST PROVIDE TO COVERED ENTITIES?

All entities served by local government provided or overseen (e.g., franchised) service (residential and commercial; on-route and drop-off) are covered, though most collection costs are not covered by the PRO. Producers provide collection for additional materials that are designated in the rule.  

EPR model: Shared responsibility with municipal reimbursement.  

Convenience standards: OR DEQ to establish through rulemaking for producer-collected materials.  

Statewide Lists: EQC to develop two lists in consultation with PROs and Advisory Council: a “uniform statewide collection list” of materials that local governments must collect and “specifically identified materials” that PROs must collect.  

Alternative Collection Programs: Not applicable, although PROs have some latitude in how they collect materials on their list.   

COLORADO: WHAT ENTITIES ARE COVERED? WHAT IS THE MINIMUM LEVEL OF COLLECTION CONVENIENCE THAT A STEWARDSHIP PLAN MUST PROVIDE TO COVERED ENTITIES?

For the first five years, only residential (single and multi-family) are covered; future plans expand to public places, small businesses, schools, hospitality locations, state and local government buildings. 

EPR model: Full EPR  

Convenience standards: Collection of recyclables must be as convenient as collection of trash.   

Statewide List: PRO and Advisory Board develop statewide list of readily recyclable covered materials based on needs assessment; CDPHE reviews & approves. Updated annually.  

Alternative Collection Programs: Producers may submit individual program plans beginning in 2025 and must notify CDPHE of intent one year in advance.   

CALIFORNIA: WHAT ENTITIES ARE COVERED? WHAT IS THE MINIMUM LEVEL OF COLLECTION CONVENIENCE THAT A STEWARDSHIP PLAN MUST PROVIDE TO COVERED ENTITIES? 

All entities served by local governments (residential and commercial are covered.   

EPR model: Shared responsibility with municipal reimbursement.  

Convenience standards: Not applicable.  

Statewide Lists: CalRecycle to publish lists of covered material categories that are recyclable and compostable as of Jan 1, 2024. Updated every two years.   

All municipalities must collect all recyclable covered materials (from statewide list).  

Alternative Collection Programs: For covered materials not collected through a curbside program, PRO shall collect and recycle these materials.   

COMMON EXEMPTIONS IN ALL OR MOST LEGISLATION  

PROs must expand collection infrastructure as needed based on results of the statewide needs assessment and any relevant rulemaking – see distinct language in Maine.    

PACKAGING EPR LAWS COMPARISON SERIES: COVERED MATERIALS AND PRODUCTS (PART ONE)

In the last two years, packaging Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation was enacted in four states. So how do they compare? In this summary comparison, we look at similarities and differences in the laws, which will impact new legislation that we expect to be introduced in a significant number of states in the coming year. This is first in a multi-part blog series, which will analyze the four packaging EPR laws.

We used PSI’s Elements of Effective EPR Legislation to compare the laws in Maine, Oregon, Colorado, and California. They include: 

  • covered materials/products 
  • covered entities 
  • collection and convenience  
  • responsible party (i.e. “producer”) 
  • governance, funding inputs 
  • funding allocation 
  • design for environment 
  • performance standards 
  • outreach and education requirements 
  • equity and environmental justice 
  • implementation timeline 
  • key definitions 
  • additional components 

For brevity, our analysis of these four laws did not include the following elements: enforcement and penalties for violation, stewardship plan contents, and annual report contents. This is part one in a multi-part series, which focuses on covered materials and products in each state. 

WHAT’S COVERED IN MAINE? 

Packaging:  

  • Primary/Secondary 
  • Residential and some commercial (no distribution packaging) 
  • Reusables: covered; only charged at initial distribution 
  • No packaging-like products.  
  • No paper products. 

Unique Exemptions:  

  • Paint containers, if PaintCare demonstrates they are recycling at least 90% of collected containers (or 80% with Department approval)  

WHAT’S COVERED IN OREGON? 

Packaging:  

  • Primary/Secondary  
  • Residential and commercial 
  • Reusables: exempt until ultimately disposed in state 

Packaging-like products:  

  • Food service ware  

Paper products:  

  • Printing and writing paper 

Unique exemptions:  

  • Commercial pkg that does not undergo separation from other materials at a processing facility, is collected outside the local government/Opportunity to Recycle framework and recycled at a responsible end market.  
  • Specialty industrial packaging 
  • On-farm packaging 
    Pallets  

WHAT’S COVERED IN COLORADO? 

Packaging:  

  • Primary/Secondary 
  • Single- or short-term use residential & most commercial (no B2B transport/distribution packaging; no exclusively industrial/manufacturing pkg)  
  • Reusables: exempt 

No packaging-like products 

Paper products:  

  • Printing & writing paper (see exemptions) 

Unique exemptions: 

  • Cannabis packaging – since it is regulated like federally regulated medications.  
  • Printed financial/billing statements, medical docs & other vital docs required to be printed by law 
    Printed publications primarily covering news & current events  

WHAT’S COVERED IN CALIFORNIA? 

Packaging:  

  • Primary/Secondary  
  • Single-use residential & most commercial 

Reusables:  

  • Exempt  

Packaging-like products:  

  • Single-use food service ware and bags (no reusables/refillables) 

No paper products 

Unique exemptions:  

  • Commercial pkg that does not undergo separation from other materials at a processing facility, is recycled at a responsible end market, and demonstrates high recycling rates (before 2027: >65% for 3 consecutive years; after 2027: > 70% annually)  

COMMON EXEMPTIONS IN ALL OR MOST LEGISLATION 

  • Architectural paint containers covered under other legislation – (see specific language for ME)  
  • Beverage containers covered under other legislation – (see specific language in CO) 
  • Medical packaging – see each law for variations in language – (except ME) 
  • Packaging required or regulated by federal regulations – (in Maine, DEP will review) 
  • Long-term storage packaging (usable for > 5 years) – (except OR)  
  • Where paper is covered (OR/CO): Paper products that become unsafe or unsanitary to handle 

News on packaging, medical waste, electronics, and more!

November Product Stewardship Updates

Thanks to you and other supporters, the momentum for Extended Producer Responsibility in the United States is growing: This year, 62 unique bills to establish or amend an EPR program were introduced, covering 14 products in 18 states! And as the demand grows, we need to increase our capacity. PSI is a lean organization – 85% of our funding goes to staff – and we depend on the generosity of donors like you to persevere. As we draw closer to the final months of the year, we know that many organizations will request your support. When it comes to annual giving, we sincerely hope that you will consider PSI. Thank you!

False Narratives Perpetuate Myths in Maine

After the Maine Republican Party released a television ad that accused Democratic Governor Janet Mills of passing a “grocery tax” in the form of an EPR packaging law, Mills debunked the claim in a news interview. The TV ad dishes out a false narrative, perpetuated by those who want the waste system to remain unchanged: There is no evidence that consumer prices go up when EPR laws are enacted. Read more on the blog.

EPR Solutions for Home Healthcare Waste

Increasingly, healthcare is handled at home. Pharmaceuticals once restricted for hospital use are now routinely prescribed; needles and syringes, known as “medical sharps,” are used by millions to safely self-inject prescribed medications outside of health-care settings. But these practices have unintended consequences: Improper disposal of medications and medical sharps can pollute the environment and put people at risk.  

PSI has been working for 15 years on pharmaceuticals take-back laws and policies, including developing model drug take-back legislation and leading the national effort in 2010 to amend the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act, which made it possible for pharmacies to accept unused drugs. This year, we developed sharps management programs in two states — Missouri and Oklahoma – and in Missouri, “Fish Don’t Want Your Meds,” a recently launched campaign, connects residents with resources to help them conveniently drop off unused medications for safe disposal. These programs are both part of a nationwide push for medical waste EPR programs and legislation, now reflected in seven state laws. Read more on the blog.

Batteries & Electronics Become Law in CA

In September, Governor Gavin Newsom signed California’s Responsible Battery Recycling Act of 2022 (AB 2440). As previously reported, the bill was championed by the California Product Stewardship Council and Californians Against Waste and includes primary and rechargeable batteries, strong collection convenience standards and performance goals, comprehensive education and outreach requirements, and aspects that seek to advance equity in battery stewardship. AB 2440’s companion bill, SB 1215, has since had EPR elements removed and now amends California’s existing electronics recycling law (which is not EPR) to include batteries “embedded” in products and not designed to be easily removed; it was also signed into law. Read more on the blog.

Members and Partners receive regular legislative updates and can track EPR bills and laws in our Legislation Library.

PSI In The News

PSI’s CEO and Founder, Scott Cassel, published an oped in Resource Recycling about his recent experience presenting on packaging EPR at an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) meeting — and how the U.S. EPA could get more involved. 

WasteDive presented information from our recent webinar, summarizing that EPR laws “can and should encompass compostable packaging.”

PSI recently provided an oped on EPR at the request of NewSecurityBeat, which is published by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars’ Environment Change & Security Program.

A Sustana Fiber oped published in Greenbiz cites EPR as a factor that “influences the packaging supply chain’s need for more sustainable business practices, and nods to PSI’s influence in enacting 129 — now 130! — EPR laws across 16 product categories in 33 states.

Looking Ahead

See You There

Scott Cassel, PSI’s CEO and Founder, will present on a panel that explores how Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and other key regulations impact recycling in North America at the Plastics Recycling World Conference in Cleveland, OH on November 9th. 

Suna Bayrakal, PSI’s Director of Policy & Programs, will discuss EPR and packaging, among other products, at the Connecticut Coalition for Sustainable Materials Management (CCSMM) meeting on November 15th. 

On November 17th, Scott will present to the Chesapeake Bay Commission on the prospects for packaging EPR laws in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. He will be joined by Kate Bailey, Policy and Research Director at EcoCycle, with whom PSI worked on Colorado’s packaging EPR law.

On December 13th PSI’s Chief Operating Officer, Amanda Nicholson, will discuss EPR and product stewardship at the concepts related to manufacturing on a free webinar hosted by ASSEMBLY magazine. 

Register Today

The term “chemical recycling” refers to a wide range of technologies that process recovered plastic products (including packaging) into new plastic, as well as energy and/or fuel. These technologies have become a lightning rod: Producers claim they leapfrog mechanical recycling by enabling infinite processing, while environmental groups allege that they undermine efforts to reduce plastic through upstream redesign and are simply another form of greenwashing.

Yet as of 2021, more than 40 companies are working to develop or manage chemical recycling projects in the United States, and 20 states — including, most recently, Missouri and New Hampshire — have enacted laws that allow chemical recycling facilities to be permitted as manufacturing facilities.

Government policy makers tasked with passing legislation or issuing permits for chemical recycling projects lack criteria to assess their economic, environmental, and human health impacts.”Making Sense of Chemical Recycling,” PSI’s new report, aims to fill that gap. The report will launch after the webinar on November 17th.

During the webinar, presented by EXPRA, our expert panel will discuss the wide range of technologies that fall under the chemical recycling umbrella and consider criteria to determine which, if any, can support a sustainable economy, prevent waste and pollution, and curb greenhouse gas emissions. Space is limited; please register today.

Partner Spotlight

In October, RECYC-QUÉBEC appointed Éco Entreprises Québec (ÉEQ), a PSI Partner, as the Designated Management Organization (DMO, equivalent to a PRO).

ÉEQ will now be responsible for developing, implementing, and financially supporting the modernized curbside recycling system on behalf of the obligated producers, as established in regulations adopted in July that introduce extended producer responsibility (EPR).

Supported by more than 1,800 businesses, ÉEQ is proud to be entrusted with this role, which is part of a long-awaited reform. Learn more by clicking here.

Reverse Logistics Group, also PSI Partner, has provided electronics manufacturers with cost effective and environmentally sound EPR services since 2008. They manage over 70 million pounds of ewaste each year through regulatory and voluntary take-back programs. Click here to learn more.

Industry Updates

MassPIRG seeks a Zero Waste Campaign Director to lead on coalition building, advocacy, and more. This is a great job for a national leader who is passionate about waste reduction!

Alberta’s government approved the regulatory framework to establish an EPR system for single-use plastic, metal, and glass products and packaging, plus printed paper, as well as one for hazardous and special products. Order in Council 346/2022 was approved on October 3rd and the EPR regulation will come into force on November 30th of this year.

SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, a PSI Partner, just launched a new website.

The Flexible Packaging Association (FPA), a PSI Partner, pegs EPR as the only way to reduce food waste, shipping emissions, and plastic in landfills.

Recycle BC, which manages residential packaging and paper recycling in British Columbia, invites review of its new Packaging and Paper Product Extended Producer Responsibility Plan.

What We’re Reading

Fires from exploding e-bike batteries are increasing in New York City – on average, four are reported each week, and some have tragic consequences.

Survey shows 91% of Americans consider the amount of plastic used in a product when making purchasing decisions and 45% believe producers are responsible.

A new report highlights the need for recycling after analysis showed that five billion mobile phones will be discarded or hoarded in 2022; they contain valuable gold, copper, silver, palladium, and other recyclable materials.

Analysts at City College of New York Grove School of Engineering looked at 13 recently completed LCAs of “advanced recycling” projects and found that using these methods to recycle hard-to-recycle plastics into new products reduced energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, as compared to landfilling and waste-to-energy.

California’s new packaging EPR law will be “a failure if we are not able to scale this model,” said Senator Ben Allen, SB 54’s primary sponsor, on the national impact of the legislation.

The U.S. EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management released an EJ Action Plan to detail how environmental justice is now embedded into the decision-making process for environmental cleanup and protection — including waste management projects.

In 2021, Canadian farmers recycled a record 77% of empty agricultural plastic jugs, according to the national stewardship organization, Cleanfarms.

We regularly share information like this on LinkedInTwitter, and Facebook. If you’d like to get these updates in real time, please follow our accounts. Thanks!

Webinar Archives

We recently gathered a group of experts to discuss the opportunities and challenges of compostable packaging, including achieving clarity on definitions and labeling, addressing materials in packaging EPR laws, how EPR funding can be used to create new infrastructure for compostable plastics, and strategies for best managing these materials in a rapidly evolving industry. We had a record 700+ registrants! The recording is now available to our full community.

Sign up for our newsletter!

Chemical Recycling Report to Launch with Webinar 

As of last year, more than 40 companies are working to develop or manage “chemical recycling” projects in the United States. This month, ExxonMobil announced 13 projects in the pipeline with the capacity to recycle 1.1 billion pounds of plastic by 2026. And as many as 20 states have enacted laws that allow chemical recycling plants to be permitted as manufacturing facilities. Yet government policy makers tasked with passing legislation or issuing permits for chemical recycling projects lack criteria to assess their economic, environmental, and human health impacts.  

Our new report, “Making Sense of Chemical Recycling,” aims to fill that gap. The report will publish on November 17th, the same day that we will host an EPR Masterclass: Chemical Recycling presented by the Extended Producer Responsibility Alliance (EXPRA). The free webinar will feature a multi-stakeholder panel of experts from the United States and Europe, who will discuss which, if any, of these technologies can support a sustainable economy, prevent waste and pollution, and curb greenhouse gas emissions.  

PSI works with state, local, and tribal government Members in 40 states; to write the report, we called on our Members to help draft a set of criteria through which governments might assess chemical recycling technology permits and legislation. The report also includes an overview of the types of technologies currently considered under the chemical recycling umbrella. 

We recognize that this conversation is controversial. Producers claim that these projects leapfrog mechanical recycling by enabling infinite processing, while environmental groups allege that they undermine efforts to reduce plastic through upstream design and are simply another form of greenwashing. In July 2022, U.S. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, along with U.S. Representatives Jared Huffman and Alan Lowenthal of California, published a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requesting that pyrolysis and gasification continue to be regulated as “municipal waste combustion units” rather than as a manufacturing plant under less stringent regulations. The letter was signed by 35 other members of Congress and endorsed by over 45 environmental organizations.   

Critics of chemical recycling point out that projects are typically situated in low-income communities of color and that they do not yet operate “at scale,” i.e., at the required size to solve the problem. However, many acknowledge that waste management facilities, including mechanical recycling plants, are also typically situated in low-income communities of color and are also not operating at a scale to solve the problem: In the United States, only about 30% of the nearly 300 million tons of municipal solid waste generated each year is mechanically recycled. While the best way to address this crisis – as well as the linked climate emergency – is to eliminate the overproduction of plastics by ramping up waste prevention systems such as reuse and refill, we must acknowledge that production might not stop in the near- or mid-term. Strong recycling and waste management policies are also necessary to achieve a sustainable circular economy.  

In the four existing packaging EPR laws, the point is already decided: PSI’s model legislation for packaging EPR, which informed laws enacted in California, Colorado, Maine, and Oregon, specifies that incineration and “waste to fuel” or “waste to energy” technologies, which burn material for energy, should be considered disposal. 

Since 2000, PSI has helped enact 130 EPR laws across 16 product categories in 33 states — and all of them began with a background paper, which established the foundation for dialogue. As such, the purpose of “Making Sense of Chemical Recycling” report is to provide baseline information for a robust multi-stakeholder dialogue that we hope to facilitate with governments, NGOs, and companies running or planning chemical recycling facilities. It is a first step in a desperately needed dialogue where all stakeholders can present their interests and perspectives. Only then can PSI develop specific recommendations for how EPR can be applied to emerging chemical recycling technologies. 

Maine Governor Debunks False Claims That EPR Raises Consumer Prices 

After the Maine Republican Party released a television ad that accused Democratic Governor Janet Mills of passing a “grocery tax” that could raise consumer prices, Mills debunked the claim in a news interview. The ad referred to a first-of-its-kind U.S. packaging law, enacted in 2021, that follows EPR best practices from Europe and Canada. The law requires multinational companies like Amazon and Walmart, which ship packaged goods into the state, to reimburse municipalities for the cost of recycling boxes and containers; small businesses are exempt from the fee.   

The TV ad dishes out a false narrative. There is no evidence that consumer prices go up when EPR laws are enacted: In fact, a study conducted by Resource Recycling Systems and funded by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality analyzed actual prices of products on shelves before and after EPR legislation was passed in Canada and found that they did not increase. In Europe, which has had packaging EPR programs in operation for over 35 years, prices have also remained stable. And a 2022 study from Columbia University found that even if EPR compliance costs doubled packaging costs, the cost increase per household would max out at $4 a month.  

However, under traditional recycling systems, consumers pay twice: first for the packaging of the products they buy, which is built into the sticker price, and a second time for the collection, recycling, and disposal of that packaging. Through EPR, brand owners are incentivized to keep their production costs down by using less packaging and switching to materials that cost less to manage.    

This type of false narrative is often perpetuated by those who want the system to remain unchanged. As with most naysayers, the Maine Republican Party ad cites a York University study that was not peer reviewed and has been widely critiqued as unsubstantiated; analysis shows that the underlying assumptions skew its conclusions.   

Governor Newsom Signs Battery and Electronics EPR Laws in California 

In September, Governor Gavin Newsom signed California’s Responsible Battery Recycling Act of 2022 (AB 2440). As previously reported, the bill was championed by the California Product Stewardship Council and Californians Against Waste and includes primary and rechargeable batteries, strong collection convenience standards and performance goals, comprehensive education and outreach requirements, and aspects that seek to advance equity in battery stewardship. AB 2440’s companion bill, SB 1215, has since had EPR elements removed and now amends California’s existing electronics recycling law (which is not EPR) to include batteries “embedded” in products; it was also signed into law. 

Over a decade ago, PSI began hosting meetings with state and local governments and other key stakeholders from across the United States to develop an evolved model for battery EPR legislation based on global best practices. These ongoing discussions and the updated model helped shape legislation introduced in multiple states, which led to Vermont’s first-in-the-country single-use battery EPR law (2014) and the District of Columbia’s first-in-the-nation single-use and rechargeable battery law (2021). Our legislation incorporates best practices for EPR for batteries from well-established laws in Canada and the European Union and we applaud the forward momentum of effective battery EPR legislation in California. 

EPR Solutions for Home Healthcare Waste 

Increasingly, healthcare is handled at home: Pharmaceuticals once restricted for hospital use are now routinely prescribed; needles and syringes, known as “medical sharps” are used by millions to safely self-inject prescribed medications outside of health-care settings.  

But these practices have unintended consequences: Improper disposal of medications and medical sharps can pollute the environment and put people at risk. Statistics show that seven out of 10 people who abuse prescription pharmaceuticals obtain them from friends or family – often from home medicine cabinets.  

After learning that medications are a top source of accidental poisoning for children, many may be tempted to flush their unused pharmaceuticals down the toilet. But this practice – responsible for as many as 2,300 tons of hazardous waste annually, according to the U.S. EPA – can pollute drinking water and harm aquatic species, while putting meds in the trash increases their risk of being abused. 

Improper disposal of home-generated medical sharps waste is another unfortunate outcome of increased home healthcare waste. In addition to prescription self-injections for conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, and allergies, over three million Americans use sharps to inject controlled substances. Although the U.S. FDA and EPA both advise against it, each year 7% of used sharps are flushed and an estimated three billion are placed, improperly and unsafely, directly into the trash.

When medical sharps are improperly disposed of, they pose grave health and safety risks to residents, sanitation workers, sewage treatment plant operators, waste management personnel, and hospitality workers. Even FDA-compliant sharps containers can be crushed by trash compactors, releasing loose sharps that can jam equipment and create hazards for workers trying to remove them. A 2018 survey showed that 53% of materials recovery facilities observed needles in household waste at least weekly; over half reported one or more needle-stick injury in 2016.

PSI has been working for 15 years on pharmaceuticals take-back laws and policies, including developing model drug take-back legislation and leading the national effort to amend the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act in 2010, which made it possible for pharmacies to accept unused drugs. This year, we developed related programs in two states: Missouri and Oklahoma.  

These programs are both part of a nationwide push for medical waste Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs and legislation. In April, Illinois became the seventh U.S. state – with Maine, Oregon, Massachusetts, Washington State, New York, and California – to enact an EPR law that requires drug manufacturers to pay for and run a statewide take-back program. 

Medical Sharps Take-Back in Oklahoma

Each year in Oklahoma, more than 100,000 residents self-injecting prescribed medications generate between 20 and 60 million needles and thousands are estimated to use sharps with controlled substances. In 2021, the Oklahoma State Legislature legalized privately funded programs to capture used sharps; as a last resort, according to state law, residents are also permitted to place medical sharps in the trash if they are sealed in a rigid plastic container. However, for reasons outlined above, there is still a need for safe, affordable disposal options provided by safe and convenient sharps collection programs.  

To address the needs of Oklahoma residents, some hospitals and medical clinics accept sharps from their patients, as do a limited number of businesses, following OSHA regulations. In addition, some cities have developed occasional, annual, or ongoing sharps take-back events. Unfortunately, these collection opportunities are not always convenient and/or available to the general public. 

The Oklahoma Meds & Sharps Disposal Committee (OMSDC) is a statewide work group, facilitated by the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) with grant support and collaboration from the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ), that works to establish collection programs for home-generated needles and syringes, known as medical “sharps.” In early 2022, it initiated a six-month sharps disposal pilot project at five Oklahoma sites, which are currently seeking funding to continue the service. 

In June, PSI published an updated “Establishing Community Medical Sharps Programs: A Guide for Municipalities, Pharmacies, Health Clinics, and Nonprofits in Oklahoma” report, which provides step-by-step support to facilitate the establishment of home-generated medical sharps collection programs for residents.  

Fish Don’t Want Your Meds in Missouri

In Missouri, a recently launched campaign aims to help residents responsibly empty their medicine cabinets in a way that won’t harm the environment or put people at risk. “Fish Don’t Want Your Meds” connects Missouri residents with resources – including an interactive map – to help them conveniently drop off unused medications for safe disposal.  

PSI co-created the program with the Missouri Product Stewardship Council (MOPSC), a coalition of governments, businesses, and other stakeholders. With attention-grabbing copy and relatable graphics, the “Fish Don’t Want Your Meds” campaign educates the public on the environmental impact of flushing pharmaceuticals, the dangers that unused medications pose to children, and how to responsibly return them for disposal. 

News on batteries, compostable plastics, and more!

October Product Stewardship Updates

PSI Presents to OECD on EPA Packaging Leadership

The Product Stewardship Institute was the only nonprofit focused on EPR to join a stakeholder consultation meeting organized by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Washington D.C. PSI was invited to the meeting, which also included national nonprofits Ocean Conservancy and Surfrider, among others, at the request of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and was recommended by OECD, which works closely with PSI and had previously invited the organization to present on U.S. EPR activity at an OECD event in Tokyo. 

With 38 member countries, the OECD works to establish international standards to help solve social, environmental, and economic problems. The focus of the September meeting, which also included waste management experts, was to assess the performance of the United States in regards to the environmental — and, especially, environmental justice — impacts of “marine litter.” (Also known as “marine debris,” this refers to waste discharged into a coastal or marine environment; the majority is plastic.) 

Participants assessed national and international commitments and contributed recommendations for improvement. Scott Cassel, PSI’s CEO and Founder, presented on how state packaging EPR laws will reduce plastic pollution, especially when considered with other legislative measures, and pointed out that the nation’s fragmented recycling infrastructure and policies, lack of a consistent materials management policy, and depleted technical capabilities are challenges to the implementation of statewide packaging EPR policies. He noted that although waste management is delegated to the states, there is a critical need for greater state harmonization or a national solution that could be found in the federal Break Free From Plastic Act (PSI’s model also informed that bill’s EPR component).  

Although it is unclear what authority the United States EPA has to promote policy that is not directly delegated by Congress, Cassel highlighted that it does have the ability to provide guidance and technical support on issues such as packaging labeling; a standard definition of recycling; and goals for source reduction, reuse, recycling, and post-consumer recycled content. He also asked EPA to support national efforts driven by state and local governments. Read more on the blog.

California Enacts Battery EPR Law

Have you checked our EPR Laws Map lately? California just changed color! This month, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law battery EPR legislation, championed by the California Product Stewardship Council and Californians Against Waste, that includes strong collection convenience standards and performance goals, comprehensive education and outreach requirements, and aspects that seek to advance equity. The state now has 11 EPR laws in place – a national record.   

Known as the Responsible Battery Recycling Act of 2022, AB 2440 requires producers to establish, fund, and operate a stewardship program to collect and recycle covered batteries and battery-embedded products, including primary, rechargeable, and lithium-ion batteries, which can explode or cause fires. Read more on the blog.

Members and Partners receive regular legislative updates and can track EPR bills and laws in our Legislation Library.

Looking Ahead

See You There

Lelande Rehard, PSI’s Senior Associate, Policy & Programs, will present on solar panel EPR at the Missouri Recycling Association (MORA) Conference on October 11 in Independence, MO. 

On October 20th in Chicago, IL, the Paper and Plastics Recycling Conference will host a panel on “EPR and Sustainable Packaging” that includes Myles Cohen, Founder & Managing Director of Circular Ventures, who is also an advisor to the Pack Green Coalition, a PSI Partner. 

Scott Cassel, PSI’s CEO and Founder, will present on a panel that explores how Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and other key regulations impact recycling in North America at the Plastics Recycling World Conference in Cleveland, OH on November 9th. 

Register Today!

On October 27th, PSI will gather a group of experts to discuss the opportunities and challenges of compostable plastics, including achieving clarity on definitions and labeling, addressing materials in packaging EPR laws, how EPR funding can be used to create new infrastructure for compostable plastics, and strategies for best managing these materials in a rapidly evolving industry. This webinar is presented by EXPRA and Éco Enterprises Québec (ÉEQ). Space is limited; please register today.

PSI In The News

Paint & Coatings Industry noted that “The International Paint Recycling Association (IPRA), which is facilitated by the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) and was developed by PSI in partnership with recycled paint manufacturers, has released some impressive statistics in its 2021 Annual Report.”

Partner Spotlight

How can businesses address their EPR challenges? Covanta, a PSI Partner, authored a PSI blog that answers this question by examining a concept foundational to EPR: The transition from a “linear” to a “circular” economy.

Covanta also published an article to help businesses reduce their environmental impact by strengthening their recycling efforts.

Industry Updates

In September, CalRecycle approved the Mattress Recycling Council (MRC) 2023 Budget and 2021 Annual Report, which showed that MRC increased collection for the sixth consecutive year, diverted from disposal 76.9% (by weight), and made more than 66 million pounds of steel, foam, fiber, and wood available for use in making new products. 

In its annual survey, the UK’s National Bed Federation said that without EPR, the industry will miss its targeted 75% diversion rate by 2028.

The Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) announced a position on chemical recycling that will not recognize plastics-to-fuel technologies as recycling, advocates for only using chemical recycling technologies to create plastic feedstocks, and said using “advanced recycling” to describe chemical recycling is “totally inappropriate and untruthful.”

Encorp Pacific’s Beverage Container Stewardship Plan has been approved by Canada’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. The approval letter and plan, which specifies a recovery rate of 83.6% to be achieved by 2023, is posted online. 

The Northeast Waste Management Officials’ Association (NEWMOA) announced their search for a new Executive Director. We tip our hats to Terri Goldberg, who has led NEWMOA for over three decades. 

In September, Circular Materials announced that it had acquired the operations of the Resource Recovery Alliance, formerly known as the Canadian Stewardship Services Alliance. 

BC Used Oil Management Association (BCUOMA) seeks stakeholder input on their revised Extended Producer Responsibility Plan, which will be presented present to Canada’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy on December 1st. Full details about the consultation process, along with a copy of the proposed plan and other supporting materials, can be found on their website.

What We’re Reading

Last week in California, Governor Newsom signed into law legislation that prohibits the manufacture, distribution, and sale of textiles and cosmetics that contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — known as PFAS — but vetoed a bill that would have created a publicly accessible database of consume items that contain the toxics. Newsom also vetoed SB 1256, which would have banned single-use, one-pound propane cylinders, saying that “an outright ban without a plan for collection and refill infrastructure could inhibit the success of building a circular system in California.”

Canada’s Environment Ministers have published a plan to prioritize management of single-use and disposable plastic items, which builds on the Action Plan on Zero Plastic Waste: Phase 1, which was approved in 2019. Analysis of Canadian product stewardship shared regional updates on EPR programs for tires, batteries. electronic devices, packaging, and more. And this week in Alberta, the government introduced an order formally approving EPR legislation; the regulation will come into force on November 30th.

Analysis of domestic sourcing requirements in the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act highlights supply gaps in the electric vehicle battery production chain. A new lithium-ion battery recycling facility announced for Arizona will produce critical materials on which increased electrical vehicle production depends.

Thailand joins other Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam and Malaysia, and bans plastic waste imports, effective 2025.

New report finds that three years into a five-year plan to reduce plastic waste, Alliance to End Plastic Waste members have achieved just .04% of recycling targets. Describing operations as “sophisticated greenwashing,” the report also points out that many AEPW members are also members of the American Chemistry Council, the primary opponent to the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, the landmark federal legislation that would implement a national packaging EPR program and container deposit requirement, among other measures to address plastic pollution. The BFFPA failed to pass the House and Senate in 2021 and 2022 and may be re-introduced next year.

During a recent webinar hosted by the U.S. Plastics Pact, participating brands indicated that more “harmonized” federal legislation could help achieve goals of making all plastic packaging 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025.

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Webinar Archives

Global efforts to stabilize our climate have resulted in an increased use of electric bikes, scooters, and vehicles — and the batteries that power them. Extended producer responsibility for batteries provides an effective solution to preventing fires and environmental contamination, recovering valuable critical minerals, reducing greenhouse gases, and creating recycling jobs. PSI recently convened experts for a free “Powering Up for Battery EPR” webinar to discuss the past, present, and future of battery EPR; the recording is now available to PSI Members and Partners.

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California Enacts Battery EPR Law 

Have you checked our EPR Laws Map lately? California just changed color! This month, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law battery EPR legislation, championed by the California Product Stewardship Council and Californians Against Waste, that includes strong collection convenience standards and performance goals, comprehensive education and outreach requirements, and aspects that seek to advance equity. The state now has 11 EPR laws in place – a national record.   

Known as the Responsible Battery Recycling Act of 2022, AB 2440 requires producers to establish, fund, and operate a stewardship program to collect and recycle covered batteries and battery-containing products, including primary, rechargeable, and lithium-ion batteries, which can explode or cause fires. 

Over a decade ago, PSI began hosting meetings with state and local governments and other key stakeholders from across the United States to develop an evolved model for EPR batteries legislation based on global best practices. These ongoing discussions and the updated model helped shape legislation introduced in multiple states, which led to Vermont’s first-in-the-country single-use household battery EPR law (2014) and the District of Columbia’s first-in-the-nation single-use and rechargeable battery law that also covers battery-containing products (2021).  

Newsom also signed SB 1215, the AB 2240 companion bill, which was stripped of its EPR elements but still amends California’s existing electronics recycling law to include batteries that are “embedded” in products and not designed to be easily removed.