Maine Becomes First US State To Enact Packaging EPR Law, Shifting Cost of Recycling To Companies

by Rudy Sanchez on 07/20/2021 | 2 Minute Read

Companies that produce packaging have spent millions of dollars and work-hours convincing the public that everyone else (and especially not them) is responsible for managing spent bottles, boxes, bags, and wrappers often made of plastics that take centuries to degrade. Rather than initiate costly and more sustainable packaging strategies, such as refillable and reusable packaging, it’s been far easier to punt the associated costs off to consumers and governments.

Amidst the futility of such efforts to cut down on refuse—the national average of waste recycled or composted is about 32 percent—Maine becomes the first US state to pass Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation that would place the costs of collecting and recycling packaging on producers. Under the new law, companies with sales of over $2 million will be responsible for proportionally financing a new stewardship program overseen by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

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Producers can decrease their financial obligation by funding alternative collection and recycling programs or design and implement packaging that generates less waste. Maine’s legislators have until May 2022 to iron out the stewardship program details.

Maine’s new law can be seen as the first domino to fall as a series of states have similar laws working their way through the legislative process, with many following EPR models found in Canada and Europe. Both legislative chambers of Oregon have sent an EPR bill to the governor’s desk for signature. States with EPR bills in the works include Maine's neighbor Massachusetts, Hawaii, Maryland, and New York. In California, similar legislation has stalled out again this year in the face of strong industry opposition.

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