News & Press: For Immediate Release

Senator Tom Udall & Rep. Alan Lowenthal introduce EPR-Driven Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act

Monday, February 10, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Josh Anderson

Contact: Josh Anderson, PSI – (617) 236-4866 or josh@productstewardship.us.  

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) introduced the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act, a landmark bill designed to reduce plastic and packaging waste and transform the recycling system. The bill would implement Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging and paper products, along with a nationwide container deposit requirement, bans on certain single-use plastic products, a carryout bag fee, and standardized labeling for recycling and disposal.

“Only about 50% of packaging in the U.S. is recycled – well below many other countries, and that rate has been stagnant for nearly two decades,” said Scott Cassel, Founder & CEO of the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI). “The Udall/Lowenthal bill will increase recycling while saving local governments millions of dollars to manage an increasingly complex waste stream.”

With EPR as the centerpiece, the bill shifts the financial and management burden for recycling from local governments and taxpayers to packaging producers and brand owners – those who decide what packaging to put on the market in the first place. The bill’s EPR component was informed by PSI’s policy model, which is part of a larger toolkit for packaging stewardship. Eight states have introduced or are currently developing packaging EPR bills this legislative session.

“Under product stewardship, producers share in the responsibility for properly managing their products across the entire lifecycle,” said Scott Klag, Senior Planner for Oregon’s Metro, a regional government that includes Portland, and Vice President of PSI’s Board. “It’s not only a more sustainable solution, it’s more equitable because it puts the cost on those who produce and consume packaging.”

For producers, the bill provides financial incentives to use packaging materials that have lower environmental impacts and allows them to develop a cohesive recycling system to replace the current fragmented one. By fostering healthy markets, it will also help producers reach their publicly stated goals for using more post-consumer recycled materials.

Under the current recycling system, it will be difficult for companies to source recycled content to meet their goals. Market shifts in the wake of the China Sword and other export restrictions on recyclables have led many municipal recycling programs to stop accepting certain materials or even cease collecting materials altogether as they struggle to deal with sudden deficits. In New York State alone, communities have spent tens of millions of dollars just to maintain their recycling programs.

“Niagara County municipalities have faced dramatic recycling cost increases in the past three years, and now some communities are paying higher rates for recycling than disposal,” said Dawn Timm, Niagara County Environmental Coordinator in New York. “EPR addresses unreasonable demands on municipalities to manage and pay for materials that they had no input on creating in the first place."

EPR policies for packaging and paper products are prevalent through Canada and Europe and have proven to be an effective means for reducing waste and increasing recycling. In the U.S., there are currently 119 EPR laws in 33 states on 14 product categories, including electronics, paint, batteries, mattresses, pharmaceuticals, and carpet. These systems have significantly increased recycling, created jobs, saved municipalities millions of dollars, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by conserving resources.

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About the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI): The Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) is a national nonprofit working to reduce the health and environmental impacts that result when consumer products and packaging enter the waste stream. PSI takes a unique approach to solving waste and recycling problems by bringing key stakeholders together in well-designed dialogues to forge lasting agreements rooted in producer responsibility, design change, and sustainable end-of-life management. PSI works on both voluntary and legislative product stewardship initiatives and has built capacity for product stewardship in the U.S. for the past 20 years. We have done this together with 47 state environmental agency members, hundreds of local government members, and over 120 partners from business, universities, organizations, and international governments.