Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs, a.k.a. product stewardship or manufacturer takeback, swept through the states a decade ago. While 24 states and the District of Columbia adopted EPR models for electronics (California instead chose an advance fee to fund their program) and states also adopted programs for products ranging from pharmaceuticals to mattresses, new laws had tapered off until recently.
This year, states in New England and beyond have re-embraced EPR, with bills targeting paper, packaging, and tires as well as legislation which could pull in any product cropping up across the nation.
These programs place responsibility for products on the original manufacturer, but in doing so also give manufacturers control over the recycling process and distort markets. ISRI agrees that there are some products with little or no recyclable markets that simply will not find their way to another life through recycling. However, stewardship programs are not the best solution for most products because they impose government mandates that force manufacturers to "take back" or otherwise control the flow of their products, thereby potentially limiting competitive markets that ultimately keep prices down. In contrast, states have seized on EPR as a way to not just boost recycling rates, but also reduce expenditures on oversight and enforcement (an outcome that is not supported by existing programs in the U.S. and beyond).
New England Chapter President Gregory Mitko testified before the Connecticut Environment Committee in February to oppose HB 7067, a bill sponsored by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. It was designed to convey to the agency unrestricted authority to identify new products to be subject to manufacturer "take-back" programs, making manufacturers responsible for the flow of recyclable materials in those programs. Paper and packaging-specific EPR bills have been introduced in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, and Indiana, while tire-specific EPR bills have reemerged in Connecticut and Vermont. Interest in electronics legislation has also reemerged in new programs and in modifying existing programs due to problems such as CRT glass management. In several states, as a consequence of a narrow reading of the statutes, producers have ceased funding programs once performance goals have been met.
ISRI supports policy that promotes a competitive market-based system that assures the free and fair trade of recyclable commodities. For recyclers, the concept of a program that provides incentives to manufacturers to design their products with the products' end-of life in mind is compelling and supports ISRI’s longstanding Design for Recycling® policy. However, ISRI opposes mandates that hold producers financially responsible to collect and recycle certain products that are being sold into viable commercial markets without subsidies or noncompetitive fixed prices.
We've created a State EPR Legislation Report as of March 24, 2017, but you can also view all of these and other bills impacting the industry using ISRI's State Legislative Tracking System. If you're interested in tips for you or your employees on how to use the system, please contact Justin Short.