If the state is to reduce its plastic waste – there is no better way to do this than with an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) law.
The use of plastic in packaging and in consumer food products continues to grow without any restrictions, and this means that our waste stream get larger and larger and Connecticut towns have to pay to have it hauled off to out-of-state landfills.
A good EPR law will assign the producers to be responsible for the end-of-life of their products. EPR places the environmental responsibility on producers for their products beyond the point of sale. This can include both financial responsibility and operational responsibility, though the amount and type may differ. EPR requires producers to pay regulatory fees to cover the handling of post-consumer materials.
EPR has also been known as Product Stewardship, which is a strategy to make the responsibility for end-of-life product management shared by producers, and other entities involved in the product chain of production, instead of the general public. EPR also works to encourage better product design and changes that minimize negative impacts on the waste stream.
Connecticut’s waste stream has been increasing, as is our uses of plastic in packaging, food storage, and consumer items. EPR presents an important policy tool for reducing the ever-increasing amount of consumer waste. The concept of EPR is to make product manufacturers and distributors responsible for their products and packaging at the end of life. This responsibility is intended to provide incentives for industry to prevent waste at the source, promote more circular design and establish public-private partnerships to help address how to deal with waste programs.
Which states have passed EPR laws concerning packaging, plastic, and paper?
Maine became the first state to pass legislation establishing EPR for packaging and paper materials, then Oregon became the second state followed by California, Colorado, and Washington.
A good portion of these bills establish extended producer responsibility program requirements for producers of packaging material sold, offered for sale, or distributed in the respective state, including through an online transaction. Many of the bills include printed paper and/or paper products, while some have also included a range of single-use products such as straws, utensils, cups, plates, and plastic bags. In most bills, producers are also required to join a producer responsibility organization (PRO) and pay some form of a fee to the PRO to help with the collection, education, and implementation of EPR goals.
Presently there is an important bill before the Connecticut Legislature to enact an EPR law – HB 5571. However, it is in jeopardy.
Why is the Bill in jeopardy when it would reduce plastic, promote better packaging, and greatly reduce the state’s waste stream?
The companies in Connecticut that make money on trash – want a lot of it. EPR will reduce the amount of trash.
Some small towns do not like the Bill because they think it might cost their town money and some consumers are worried that will add to their costs of consumer goods.
However, the issue of cost by opponents does not seem accurate.
A study conducted by Resource Recycling Systems and funded by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality analyzed prices before and after EPR legislation passed in Canada and found no evidence that they increased; in Europe, where programs have been in operation for more than three decades, prices have also remained stable.
In fact, without EPR, consumers pay three times: First for the packaging of the product, which is included in the cost, second for the collection and recycling or disposal of that packaging through their municipal taxes or private subscription costs, and third for the indirect associated costs of pollution.
It is critical that Connecticut join Maine, Oregon, California, Colorado, and the State of Washington and pass the EPR bill, HB 5571, that is presently before the CT Legislature.
For more information, read EHHI’s report on “Plastics and Microplastics: a Threat to the Environment and Health.”