Extended Producer Responsibility continues to evolve in the United States. Legislation for packaging waste, waste electricals and waste batteries has been introduced, but in a similar way to Europe, the requirements and obligations differ from state to state. Many areas have implemented plastic bans, while others have focused on the recycling of specific electrical appliances such as refrigerators, freezers, computers and TVs.
Charlotte Wootton, Valpak’s International Account Manager, looks at how New York and California have started to implement EPR Regulations and are leading the way for other states to follow.
In February 2020, two bills were passed in New York in order to establish Extended Producer Responsibility for wastepaper and packaging. Focus has been placed on these two product types as they have been highlighted as the two biggest problems that New York currently faces in terms of recycling, with the state producing around 7 million tonnes of paper and plastic a year and only 50% of this being recycled.
The first bill, the Assembly Bill A09790, states that producers will have to establish a plan for the collection of their packaging within the state. The governing body will keep a list of the producers that have an approved plan to ensure compliance can be monitored. The bill proposes a recycling target of 80%, which is a large increase from the current 50%, and outlines that all packaging should contain a minimum of 25% post consumer recycled content.
The second bill is the State Senate Bill S7718 which outlines the need for EPR regulations to be in place in order to create a circular economy. Producers would be prohibited from selling or distributing any paper or packaging in New York until they are covered by an approved plan. A producer may choose to create a plan themselves, or alternatively join a Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO) who will take on these obligations on the producer’s behalf. Producers will be required to pay fees as part of this Bill and submit a detailed annual report, the specific requirements of which are yet to be determined.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the Bill’s progress has been delayed from moving on to the next stage of approval. They have, however, proposed that this is likely to come into action in 2025.
Over the past few years, California has worked hard looking to reform their environmental waste legislation. A bottle EPR scheme is one suggestion currently being reviewed. California uses its existing deposit return system to encourage bottle recycling. The consumer can return their bottles to the organisation they were bought from and receive a refund of their pre-paid deposit.
However, although the system has produced some positive results, recycling levels remain low, as consumers do not return their bottles. The proposal of EPR means that producers of plastic and glass bottles would be responsible for the end of life of their products and would financially contribute towards the recycling of them.
There is still hope that the reformed system will pass; however, it’s facing strong opposition from bottle producers.
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