New York may be on board to be the fifth state in the nation to hold producers responsible for packaging products. Thus far, Maine, Oregon, Colorado, and California have enacted extended producer-responsibility laws.  The EPR laws assign both financial and operational responsibility for the end of life of products, and are an important tool for managing and lowering consumer waste. In other words, the programs require the producers of packaging products to finance the costs of recycling or disposing of products that consumers no longer want.

The concept is to put forth incentives to prevent waste at the source – including requirements that product manufacturers and distributors develop programs that charge fees paid by packaging producers to help with the take back of products. Fees can vary, but can be higher for packaging that is not recyclable or has negative environmental impacts. The fees aim to shift the costs of waste disposal away from municipalities and provide packaging producers with an incentive to make products that are recyclable, last longer, and are not as toxic.

The concept of EPR programs originated in Europe, as a way to reach its goal of making 70 percent of all product packaging recyclable by 2030. The programs in Europe include EPR systems for items like electronics, batteries, and cars. The United States has slowly followed suit. For example, many states have EPR laws in place for paint – which can be reused, recycled into new paint, or repurposed. The paint companies in these states are required to develop stewardship programs that make it easier for consumers to recycle unused paint. Many of these bills require producers of packaging materials to join groups called producer responsibility organizations, which collect fees from the producers to help with collection of materials, education, and implementation of EPR goals.

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Author: Goldberg Segalla, JD Supra