Welcome to our PAC NEXT 2nd quarter 2015 Printed Paper and Packaging Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) report. I hope that you find these global updates useful and we welcome your feedback and comments. To begin with,  I’m delighted to be able to introduce Heidi Sanborn (California Product Stewardship Council) and Matt Prendville (Upstream) as our guest columnists to share their perspective on EPR for packaging in the USA. Today there are 4 US states exploring EPR for packaging (California, Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont) and certainly noteworthy at the moment is CalRecycle asking industry to provide proposals for a Manufacturers Challenge to reduce packaging disposal by 50% by 2020 (read more below). As mentioned in our previous quarterly the private-public partnership programs continue to gain momentum in the USA and is boosted by the recent Recycling Partnership announcement that East Lansing, Michigan is their next city partner

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Feature Column
The Evolution of EPR for Packaging in the US

Matt Prindiville,
UPSTREAM & Heidi Sanborn, California Product Stewardship Council

The debates around extended producer responsibility for packaging have been raging in the US for nearly four years now. While there has been significant opposition from most affected consumer brands, there has been growing support from local governments, and an openness from some waste and recycling businesses to discuss it.

There have also been signs of a change in position from some consumer brands, at least to the general concept. 2014 was the year that Corporate America finally got its wake-up call on recycling with the announcement of voluntary product stewardship efforts like Walmart’s Closed Loop Fund and the Recycling Partnership. These new developments are changing the terms of the debate and the policy framework in a number of states with mature EPR discussions. Here’s why:

Everyone - from city recycling coordinators to packaging suppliers to even the most cynical representatives from consumer brands - wants to boost packaging recycling. It’s embarrassing that our country tosses over half of all generated packaging materials into the garbage.

The good news is that we know what how to do this. Numerous reports have been issued from the top recycling research firms showing that a variety of policy tools, including - universal cart-based curbside recycling, statewide Pay-As-You-Throw, landfill bans on recyclable materials, away-from-home recycling infrastructure, robust outreach and education, financial incentives like container deposits, and investments in materials recovery facilities (or MRFs- where recyclables are sorted into saleable commodities), etc. - can all dramatically increase recycling and prevent litter, especially if they are pursued together.

The bad news is that many of these ideas cost money. In addition, with the exception of a few commodities like aluminum, nearly all other packaging materials cost more to collect than you get from selling the scrap. The bottom line is that increasing recycling requires that someone picks up the tab.

Most local governments are too cash strapped to invest in recycling. Funding for recycling and litter cleanup competes with funding needs for police and fire protection, schools and other essential municipal services. On the business side, the waste management and recycling companies will only invest in recycling infrastructure if it will clearly improve their bottom line.

Given these on-the-ground realities, recycling and sustainable materials management advocates are looking to EPR as a way to get the consumer goods companies - that put packaging into the marketplace - to pay their fair share for managing it. Of course, the devil is in the details, and the challenge has been wrestling through much of the baggage wrapped up in preconceived notions about what EPR is, and what it means for the interests of affected stakeholders including control of the existing infrastructure.

In the end, it all comes down to money and control. Most of the stakeholders in the recycling supply chain - local governments, collectors, processors and end-users (including many packaging suppliers) - want the increased investment - that would come from producer fees - to optimize the recycling systems where they operate. However, over the last four years, much of the US discussions and subsequent controversy focused on a 100% producer-financed and controlled recycling system and the massive power-shift inherent in this approach. Many would not consider this shift without ensuring the existing infrastructure investments are protected.

While there are plusses and minuses to this approach, it is clear that local governments and waste and recycling industries want the investment, but not the total loss of control.

To that end, a shared responsibility approach - which balances the investment from producer fees on packaging and taxpayer and/or garbage ratepayer funding, with shared control among key stakeholders toward achieving robust recycling and litter prevention goals - may be the key to making EPR work politically in the United States. Stay tuned!


Canadian News

Burns Lake and Terrace join MMBC

Alberta’s Recycling Regulatory Amendments Underway

Nova Scotia’s Solid Waste Regulation Amendments Due Later this Year

TVOntario’s Feature on Solid Waste

WDO Decision on 2015 Blue Box Funding

ÉEQ Celebrates 10th Anniversary of RECYC-QUÉBEC Certification

Automated Waste Collection and Incentive Tariff Coming to Beaconsfield

Éco Entreprises Quebec Invests in Recycling Glass

Saskatchewan PPP Program Still in Limbo?

U.S. News - Rhode Island, New York & California

Rhode Island Mulls EPR for Packaging

New York State Proposes Bill to Reduce Packaging Waste

California Proposes Voluntary Manufacturers Challenge - 50% Packaging Disposal Reduction by 2020

EPR Lobbyists Active in California

International News

Canada Learns from the EU

EU revisits plans for Circular Economy

India Plans Ban on Non-Biodegradable Plastic Packaging

Matt Prindiville
Heidi Sanborn
Alan Blake
Rachel Morier
Hana Drdla

The conclusions and views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the views of every PAC NEXT Member Company or Affiliate.

Copyright © 2015 by PAC, Packaging Consortium
“PAC NEXT - EPR Updates: Canada, USA & Europe” is the property of PAC Packaging Consortium. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be translated, reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any material form either in whole or in part by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or invented in the future, including photocopying and recording or in any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from PAC Packaging Consortium.

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