The US Needs EPR Policies for Packaging and Paper

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policies for packaging and paper are critical for reducing unnecessary packaging. The policies also support scaling up reuse systems, improving and increasing recycling, ensuring equitable and convenient access to recycling, and helping drive more sustainable product design. 

Producers Pay Instead of Communities 

EPR policies require product manufacturers to pay for the costs to take back, recycle, or properly dispose of their products and packaging. In locations where EPR policies are not in place, governments and taxpayers cover all these costs or recycling programs either do not exist or have inequitable access. Without EPR, communities and the environment absorb the externalized health and climate costs of toxic and wasteful packaging and products.

Invest in Recycling to Reduce Waste

Recycling in the US has stagnated for over a decade and is plagued by volatile commodity markets, increasing contamination rates, limited local government resources, inequities in services, and a patchwork system of programs. We need big changes to address the crisis we’re facing, and well-crafted EPR can help transform the packaging stream and how we fund and manage the entire system. 

Focus on Recycling Right, Not Just Recycling More

An effective EPR policy must focus on recycling right, not just recycling more. A strong EPR policy is an opportunity to raise the bar for all operations and programs across the country, while poor policy is a risk to simply shift the costs of recycling without ushering in systemic improvements and community benefits.

Read our report: The US Needs EPR Policies for Packaging and Paper

A well-crafted EPR policy can help transform the packaging stream and how we fund and manage the entire system.

Tenets of a Strong EPR for Packaging and Paper Policy

Authentic Recycling Defined

A good EPR bill will include a strong definition of authentic recycling that excludes using recycled materials to produce energy, fuels, fuel products, or landfill cover.

Eco-Modulation Encourages the Use of Sustainable Packaging

Eco-modulation will incentivize source reduction, reuse, recycling, and composting (in that order) while creating disincentives or bans on toxic packaging.

Enforceable, Transparent Targets

The policy must include clear and enforceable targets, including source reduction, reuse, and recycling rates.

Hold Producers Responsible

Producers and Producer Responsibility Organizations (PROs) responsible for overseeing the producers must be held accountable to meet established targets and be responsive to community needs through strong public oversight mechanisms and clear accountability measures.