Packaging EPR Laws in the U.S.

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a globally used legislative tool that makes producers responsible for the entire lifecycle of their products. While EPR laws can apply to any product placed on the market, the packaging and packaging waste, electronic or electrical waste, and battery categories have been identified by global legislators as crucial waste streams due to their volume and toxicity.  

EPR legislation was first implemented in the European Union (EU). Since then, EPR laws have continued to expand steadily worldwide, including in the United States (U.S.) at the state level. While e-waste and battery laws exist in the U.S., recent EPR legislation has focused on packaging and packaging waste. In 2021 and 2022, six states passed packaging laws, and several states aim to introduce similar legislation soon. 

Which U.S. states have packaging EPR laws?

As of 2023, six U.S. states have active EPR or similar packaging laws: California, Colorado, Maine, Oregon, New Jersey, and Washington. Maine was the first state to implement packaging EPR laws, passing An Act to Support and Improve Municipal Recycling Programs and Save Taxpayer Money in July 2021.

Oregon followed suit in August 2021, followed by Colorado and California in June 2022. Washington and New Jersey’s packaging legislation is currently focused on post-consumer recycled content, but Washington has proposed legislation that directly falls under the scope of EPR. Continue reading for a brief overview of what each state law entails. 

States with Packaging EPR Laws in the U.S.

California - Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act (SB 54)

California’s Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act (SB 54) is intended to reduce packaging and packaging waste to meet the state’s recycling and climate goals and build a circular economy. By 2032, the law requires: 

  • 100% of packaging in the state to be recyclable or compostable 
  • 65% of all single-use plastic packaging to be recycled  
  • 25% reduction in plastic packaging 

The legislation shifts the plastic pollution burden from consumers to the plastics industry and instructs producers to create a Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) and implement an EPR program. The EPR program requires producers to design, fund, and run a statewide program that collects and recycles/composts discarded products. 

Colorado - Producer Responsibility Program for Statewide Recycling Act (HB 22-1355)

Colorado’s Producer Responsibility Program for Statewide Recycling Act (HB 22-1255) was signed into law on June 2, 2022. The law set up a statewide recycling system to help contribute towards a circular economy for recyclable materials.  

The law aims to reduce plastic waste and improve the state’s recycling rate, thus reducing the amount of recyclable material in landfills. Producers of packaging and printed paper are responsible for funding the recycling system, including capital, operating, education, and promotion costs, which are built into producers’ wholesale prices and distributed throughout the supply chain. 

Maine - An Act to Support and Improve Municipal Recycling Programs to Save Taxpayer Money (LD 1541) 

Maine’s LD 1541 bill shifts the responsibility and cost of managing packaging waste from municipalities and citizens to producers. It covers packaging materials only, such as plastic containers, cardboard boxes, and other non-recyclable materials.  

The legislation is intended to reduce the volume and toxicity of packaging waste entering landfills and increase packaging material recycling. This waste management solution was also implemented to incentivize producers to place less packaging onto the market and to make the packaging more sustainable. 

Oregon - Plastic Pollution and Recycling Modernization Act (SB 582)

The Plastic Pollution and Recycling and Modernization Act (SB 582) was implemented to overhaul Oregon’s outdated recycling system by building on local community programs and leveraging the resources of producers to cover the cost of improvements. It covers packaging, printing and writing paper, and food service ware.

The key goals of the bill are to increase access to recycling for everyone in the state, prevent plastic pollution by effectively recycling collected materials, and incentivize innovation by charging higher producer fees for non-recyclable products. 

New Jersey - Recycled Content Law (P.L. 2021, c. 391)

New Jersey’s Recycled Content Law (P.L. 2021, c. 391) establishes postconsumer recycled content obligations for glass and rigid plastic containers, plastic and paper carryout bags, plastic beverage containers, and plastic trash bags. The law also prohibits the sale of polystyrene loose fill packaging. 

The law aims to vitalize recycling markets by requiring manufacturers to meet minimum recycled content standards for the sale or distribution of products within the scope of the law. The law is also intended to help stabilize markets, increase recycling resiliency when oil prices fluctuate, and protect municipal recycling programs from the unpredictability of recycling costs. 

Washington - Post Consumer Recycled Content Law (70A.245)

Chapter 70A.245 of Washington’s 2021 Plastics Law, the Post-Consumer Recycled Content Law, requires producers of common products sold in plastic packaging to register with the state, pay annual fees, and include a minimum amount of recycled plastic in their plastic product packaging. The law aims to reduce the production of new plastic and incentivize the development of new markets for recyclable plastic in the state. 

As of January 1st, 2023, the law applies to plastic trash bags, plastic beverage bottles (except for dairy products and 187ml wine bottles), and plastic bottles for household cleaning and personal care products. Producers must also label packages that contain plastic trash bags sold or distributed within the state of Washington with the name and location of the producer, a uniform resource locator, or a quick response (QR) code to a website with the information. 

Washington aims to expand the scope of their packaging EPR legislation with their proposed bill to improve the state’s solid waste management outcomes (SB 5154).  

Source Intelligence's EPR Program

As EPR legislation continues to expand across the U.S., businesses must take steps to manage EPR compliance now and in the future. Following EPR legislation requires extensive resources, as EPR laws vary by state. Businesses considered producers are obligated to meet the individual recycling targets and reporting requirements for each state in which they place products on the market, in addition to conducting regular research on legislative proposals and changes.  

This responsibility can be overwhelming and inefficient without adequate resources, but Source Intelligence can simplify the process and support you along the way. With our EPR program, your company can manage and automate due diligence obligations arising from EPR legislation, including packaging laws, and streamline data collation and reporting building to achieve recycling targets. We offer various services, from powerful software to consulting on certain aspects of your EPR obligations.  

Explore our EPR program to learn more about how we can help you manage your EPR obligations across the U.S. and beyond. 

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