Why Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is Important for Product Packaging

Waste production is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. According to global waste statistics, experts forecast worldwide waste generation to reach 3.4 billion metric tons by 2050, with less than 20% of waste recycled yearly.

Governments, businesses, and consumers worldwide continue to struggle with waste management, from transportation to disposal. It’s no surprise that people demand solutions to reduce waste and increase recycling efforts. 

A viable solution is Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). EPR is a policy instrument that will hold businesses liable for their goods’ environmental impact and recycling costs, especially their packaging. 

This article briefly explains what extended producer responsibility is, how it may affect your business, and how states across the country are introducing relevant legislation to hold producers accountable. 

what is extended producer responsibility

What is Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)?

Extended producer responsibility is a policy instrument where producers and manufacturers are held responsible for the cost of recycling, take-back, and disposal of their products. EPR is an example of the Polluter Pays Principle ( those who produce pollution should bear the costs of managing it.)

Before EPR policies existed, the responsibility of recycling and reusing consumer products and their materials typically fell on the shoulders of governments. Among all the waste producers globally, 20 firms were generating more than half (55%) of the world’s plastic waste as of 2021. 

Extended producer responsibility promotes the circular economy, requiring businesses and manufacturers to pay for the management of the waste from the products they produce. 

EPR for Packaging: How It Works and Its Importance 

The implications of extended producer responsibility policies for your business are potentially significant, especially if you have yet to involve sustainable packaging materials in your production cycles.

The plastic waste problem worsens over time. It’s clear to many experts that, despite the private sector’s efforts, public policy is necessary to move the needle in reducing the effects of the global plastic problem. Extended producer responsibility policies can incentivize manufacturers to select sustainable materials for producing their products. 

In practice, EPR begins at the legislative level. Governments create policies where producers have legal and financial obligations to adhere to lifecycle management standards and performance targets for their products, including how they’re packaged. Hence, the packaging industry is significantly affected. 

As part of the packaging industry, EPR policies will mean producers should look more closely at the lifecycle of their products, especially once consumers dispose of them. Extended producer responsibility requires brands to rethink their product packaging and packaging designs to make them more sustainable, reducing the cost of recycling.

epr packaging

The Rise of EPR for Packaging Across the United States

Knowing how states are introducing EPR policies into legislation is vital for product manufacturers to avoid penalties or legal complications. As more states develop a greater focus on sustainability, EPR packaging will rise. 

On July 13, 2021, Maine became the first US state to pass an EPR law for packaging. The state passed LD 1541, establishing a stewardship program for packaging to reduce the toxicity and volume of materials produced and increase its reliability. 

According to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the law requires producers to make payments based on the “amount and recyclability of packaging associated with the products.” The payments will help fund investments to improve recycling infrastructure and educate Maine residents on how to recycle. 

Shortly after Maine passed its extended producer responsibility law, Oregon passed its own legislation to reduce plastic waste. On August 6, 2021, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed Senate Bill 582, the Recycling Modernization Act, which builds on local community programs and leverages producer resources to update the state’s recycling system for the benefit of its residents.

Oregon  now requires producers of packaged items, food service ware, and paper products to pay for a significant portion of the state’s recycling program improvements, helping to ensure the success of the updates. 

As the gravity of the plastic problem worsens, more US state lawmakers are making efforts to introduce extended producer responsibility legislation, including the following:

It’s important to review your state’s extended producer responsibility and sustainability policies to ensure your business is operating within the law. 

Take Responsibility for Protecting the Environment

Product manufacturers need to adapt to the increasing demands of consumers and governing bodies to improve waste management systems. Regardless of whether any state passes EPR policies, taking the initiative to shift to sustainable EPR packaging solutions will benefit the environment and likely the environment. 

If you’re interested in finding reliable packaging solutions, consider working with the product packaging experts from Meyers. We’ll collaborate with your business to bring your packaging designs to life with our professional printing solutions. Contact Meyers to learn more about how we can help you.