Three proposals to impose a fee on manufacturers selling products in Virginia based on how much packaging they use were killed by a Republican-led House subcommittee last week over concerns about consumer price hikes, but the chair is urging a state recycling task force to take a look at the issue. “I’m going to be blunt. When you get something the size of a phone and the package is the size of this desk and you start looking at some of this stuff, it kind of makes you wonder,” said Del. Michael Webert, R-Fauquier, who heads up the Subcommittee on Agriculture, during a meeting. Webert said he plans to ask Del. Lee Ware, R-Powhatan, who chairs the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee, to send a letter to the Virginia Waste Diversion and Recycling Task Force requesting that it consider the proposals.

The bills — put forward by Dels. Betsy Carr, D-Richmond; Mark Keam, D-Fairfax; and  Alfonso Lopez, D-Arlington — would have set up a Packaging Stewardship Program and fund that starting on Jan. 1, 2023 would have required larger manufacturers to pay an annual fee to the Department of Environmental Quality based on the amount of packaging they use. All included exemptions for smaller producers and fee offsets for companies with alternative collection programs.  “At this point, consumers are responsible for recycling,” Carr told the subcommittee Wednesday. “What this bill does is try to equalize [the cost] between the manufacturers and the consumers so that both have some responsibility.”

The idea isn’t new. Last year saw a wave of similar bills across the nation, including one adopted by Maine’s legislature that expects to begin assessing fees on producers in 2026. Together, the proposals are known as extended producer responsibility programs. The Northern Virginia Waste Management Board, which supports EPR programs like Maine’s for products and packaging that are difficult to dispose of, contended in a policy brief that producers have “the most influence over the design of products and packaging and, if they are partially responsible for the cost of recycling or disposal, they will design their products to be more easily recovered and/or disposed.”

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Author: Sarah Vogelsong, Virginia Mercury
Sarah Vogelsong, Virginia Mercury