Extended Producer Responsibility back on the Radar

Date: December 7, 2020

Source: News Room

Recent developments evidence momentum is building for consumer product companies to bear some of the recycling burden. The idea of extended producer responsibility (EPR) has been around a while but has traditionally been resisted by manufacturers. That position is softening. The Flexible Packaging Association said Dec. 7 it has reached an agreement with a product stewardship organization on legislative principles for extended producer responsibility, including for funding mechanisms for collection of materials.

On the other side of the equation, Federal and state lawmakers are proposing bills to push companies to pick up the tab. Such rules could help pay for curbside collection and sorting infrastructure and encourage companies to design packaging that is easier to recycle. Charging companies "puts the financial burden of plastic pollution back on the manufacturers who generate it and profit from it," said Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), who this year introduced a bill that would make companies pay to collect and process packaging waste.

The top Democrat on the U.S. Senate environment committee, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), is urging the federal government to adopt extended producer responsibility for plastics, including having the industry help fund recycling programs. He detailed his proposals in comments to the Environmental Protection Agency as it develops the country's first national recycling strategy. Carper said that with low recycling rates and plastics production globally expected to double in the next decade, it is "critically important" to find ways to reduce plastics use in addition to recycling more. He called for mandates around recycled content and government procurement, as well as product stewardship and design for recycling.

Recycling packaging waste is ever more complicated, often being a mix of materials, which most recycling facilities cannot handle. China, historically the biggest buyer of used plastic from the U.S., stopped doing so in 2018 when it banned waste imports thus creating a glut of recyclables with nowhere to go. Covid-19 has exacerbated the problem. Residential recycling programs are collecting 7 percent more waste this year, as cash-strapped municipalities struggle to accommodate a waste stream that tends to be more contaminated than that from commercial accounts.

Industry trade groups such as Ameripen and the Consumer Brands Association have also said recently that they would support industry funding in the way of per-item fees on packaging that would increase recycling.


FPA and PSI Reach Agreement on Legislative Elements of an EPR Bill for Packaging and Paper Products

  • Includes eight legislative elements of highest priority for FPA members

Annapolis, MD: December 7, 2020 - Today, the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA), the leading advocate and voice for the growing U.S. flexible packaging industry, and the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI), a leader of the U.S. product stewardship movement, announced an agreement on eight legislative elements of an extended producer responsibility (EPR) bill for packaging and paper products (PPP).

This shared vision for a packaging EPR program that includes flexibles was developed through a year-long dialogue designed and facilitated by PSI. The FPA/PSI dialogue marks the first time in the U.S. that producers of flexible packaging, state and local government agencies, environmental groups, and recyclers have collaborated to develop a legislative framework for packaging EPR.

"Flexible packaging has many attributes that make it environmentally preferable, but it has limited opportunities for collection and recycling at its end-of-life. FPA needed a platform to educate policymakers and ensure that any extended producer responsibility legislation in the U.S. for packaging provided an on-ramp for the circularity of flexible packaging," said Alison Keane, Esq., IOM, CAE, and President and CEO of the FPA.

"Municipalities face skyrocketing recycling costs to manage an ever more complex packaging waste stream over which they have no control," said Scott Cassel, PSI's Chief Executive Officer and Founder. "With this agreement, FPA member companies and PSI member governments, companies, and organizations have started down a path together to provide desperately needed fiscal relief for municipalities while fixing and expanding our national reuse and recycling system."

Participants reached agreement on eight legislative elements of the highest priority for FPA and its members, including the types of packaging to be included in legislation, entities from which packaging would be collected, and the definition of producers, who are legally responsible. Agreement was also reached on funding for collection, transportation, and processing of packaging for reuse and recycling, public education, and government oversight. Participants agreed that funding should go towards system changes needed to recycle flexible packaging, as well as paying for litter abatement and prevention programs, and not to manage garbage and disposal systems. How to set performance targets and recycling goals were also outlined, as were financial incentives for producers to make more sustainable packaging, including the use of recycled content.

Prior to discussing legislative elements, PSI first helped participants reach agreement on four foundational aspects, including the benefits of flexible packages, a multi-faceted problem statement, and detailed attributes of a sustainable system for managing flexible packaging. Dialogue participants included FPA member companies; PSI state and local government agencies from states that introduced or were developing EPR legislation; statewide environmental groups; and recyclers. The dialogue process included stakeholder interviews, web-based calls, and a two-day in-person meeting, and was designed to identify the most important priorities in managing flexible packaging waste, as well as unique challenges and opportunities, from manufacturing and design to postconsumer collection, reuse, and recycling.

"Dialoguing with the Product Stewardship Institute, which represents the state and local governments, among others, contemplating this legislation, is a process that brings those policymakers together through one organization. Other packaging supply chain organizations should be doing the same so that industry can shape legislation that provides for needed recycling infrastructure for all packaging types in the U.S," said Keane.

PSI and FPA representatives have also met with individual local and state government officials developing EPR for PPP bills. PSI will continue to facilitate these FPA state-by-state conversations, using these elements as a reference and discussion tool.

For more information, please visit www.flexpack.org and www.productstewardship.us.

Dani Diehlmann, FPA Director of Communications ddiehlmann@flexpack.org; 410-694-0800
Scott Cassel, PSI CEO/Founder scott@productstewardship.us; 617-513-3954


About the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA)

The Flexible Packaging Association is the voice of the U.S. manufacturers of flexible packaging and their suppliers. The association's mission is connecting, advancing, and leading the flexible packaging industry. Flexible packaging represents over $33 billion in annual sales in the U.S. and is the second largest and one of the fastest growing segments of the packaging industry. Flexible packaging is produced from paper, plastic, film, aluminum foil, or any combination of those materials, and includes bags, pouches, labels, liners, wraps, rollstock, and other flexible products.

About the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI)

The Product Stewardship Institute safeguards the welfare of people and the planet by minimizing the health, safety, and environmental impacts that result when consumer products and packaging enter the waste stream. PSI is a convener, reaching across boundaries between the public and private sectors. Together with hundreds of government agency members and more than 120 partners (businesses, NGOs, and academics), we research, design, implement, evaluate, and promote producer responsibility laws and voluntary programs that solve recycling and waste management issues to create a circular economy.

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