Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation is on the horizon in the U.S., and preparedness varies among manufacturers, according to PMMI Business Intelligence’s 2023 report, “Sustainability and Technology – The Future of Packaging and Processing.”
EPR generally refers to laws requiring product producers to fund programs or organizations intended to collect, recycle, and otherwise manage packaging, with fees depending on the volume and package type used.
Extended producer responsibility legislation emerging in the U.S.
In the U.S., just four states (Maine, Oregon, Colorado, and California) had passed EPR laws on packaging by the end of 2022.
That may change in 2023, as many other states may join the list following bills announced last year, the report says, citing Plastics News’s article ‘This is the year the reality of plastics EPR arrives in the U.S.” and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s “Guide to Extended Producer Responsibility.”
Across the U.S., over 30 bills relating to EPR and packaging have now been introduced. On the federal level, Congress is considering two bills with EPR language.
Many other countries around the world have had EPR regulations in place for several years. Germany was the first to implement these types of laws around 40 years ago. They have since spread to other European countries, Canada, Asia, and South America and will continue to spread moving forward.
Extended producer responsibility preparedness varies
Despite the impact EPR legislation has and will have on companies, just over a third (37%) of the 60 executive participants in a PMMI survey said their business was looking at the impact of EPR legislation in their packaging, compared with 63% who said no.
Even among organizations exploring the impact of EPR on their business, answers varied.
Some said their company was “just recently starting to understand EPR, not to the point where we understand the impact” or that they are “still very early in the process, so unsure at this time.”
Others said, “we work with our private label co-manufacturers to ensure we are in compliance,” or that they are calculating the financial implications of potential U.S.-wide legislation.
Several representatives of large CPGs said they are examining the impact of EPR rules, citing the possible increase in costs with reuse/refill targets or the effects on efficiency and throughput.
Some participants noted that post-consumer recycled (PCR) content and recyclable materials will become more important in the future and pointed to potentially positive outcomes from EPR regulations, such as working more collaboratively with industry partners and customers.
EPR is becoming more important, but there is a great deal of uncertainty about the implications for companies involved in the packaging industry. Many are waiting on new U.S. and state legislation to see the full impact on their operations.
SOURCE: PMMI Business Intelligence, 2023 Sustainability and Technology – The Future of Packaging and Processing
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