Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) released a discussion draft of legislation that addresses packaging and single-use plastics and would hold producers responsible for the waste they produce. The comprehensive bill reflects the severity of the recycling and pollution crisis, which is impacting communities across the U.S.

“The sheer volume of plastic pollution that is inundating our communities, our waterways, and even our bodies is nothing short of a crisis,” said Udall in a statement. “Cities and states across the country, including in my home state of New Mexico, are already taking action to reduce this plastic footprint before it’s too late. But we need a bold, national strategy to tackle plastic pollution.”

The Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) assisted staff for Sen. Udall and Rep. Lowenthal on the draft bill, particularly in making extended producer responsibility (EPR) the centerpiece of the bill. PSI coordinated a group of more than 35 of its state and local government members to provide significant input on the draft bill based on an on-going, close examination of existing EPR for packaging and printed paper programs, coupled with the unique needs of U.S. states and communities.

As brand owners make public commitments to produce packaging that’s more recyclable and contains more recycled content, the very systems needed to support their goals are at risk of collapsing. In the past year, many municipal recycling programs have stockpiled and stopped accepting certain types of materials, struggled to deal with sudden deficits, and even ceased collecting materials altogether. In New York State alone, communities spent an estimated $56.5 million in the past year just to maintain their recycling programs.

“The current state of recycling markets has simply exposed the fundamental flaws in our system,” according to Scott Cassel, PSI CEO and Founder. “Our communities have been struggling with a waste problem over which they have no control for too long, and producers need to be directly engaged to help solve it.”

EPR policies for packaging and paper products are prevalent through Canada and Europe and have proven to be an effective means for reducing waste and increasing recycling. Over the past two decades, PSI has built capacity for EPR policies in the U.S., including packaging, through legislative models, research, strategic discussions, and opportunities for multi-stakeholder collaboration. Many of the elements of model EPR packaging legislation developed by PSI and its members are incorporated in the draft bill released today.

“We have a systemic problem and we need a systemic solution,” said Kristin Aldred Cheek, Director of Policy and Programs at PSI. “EPR offers the paradigm shift that we need if we are serious about reducing our rate of resource depletion and recovering materials.”

In addition to EPR, the draft bill includes a nationwide container deposit requirement, bans on certain single-use plastic products, a carryout bag fee, and standardized labeling for recycling and disposal.

PSI will once again coordinate input from its government members and corporate partners to refine the draft bill and gain support for its passage. Sen. Udall and Rep. Lowenthal are seeking input from stakeholders by close of business on November 21, 2019. Comments can be submitted to Plastic@tomudall.senate.govand plastic@mail.house.gov. To read the discussion draft and detailed instructions on submitting comments, visit https://www.tomudall.senate.gov/.

For more information, visit www.productstewardship.us

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