EPR Laws for Packaging in the United States: Where Are We Now?

EPR Laws for Packaging in the United States: Where Are We Now?

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Under Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws for packaging, producers in the United States are obligated to join Producer Responsibility Organizations (PROs), report packaging data, and pay fees in order to sell products in (or into) certain states. 

What is Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging?  

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is an approach to environmental policy that holds “producers” accountable for the entire packaging lifecycle in which their products are sold and/or shipped.  

EPR laws levy fees against producers based on how much packaging (and what type of packaging) they put on the market in a given jurisdiction: the more packaging (and the less sustainable it is), the higher the fees a producer will pay. Fees paid by producers support the infrastructure needed to manage packaging waste, including collection activities, recycling, public outreach, and final disposition.  

In this way, EPR leverages financial incentives to encourage producers to minimize their environmental impact, reduce waste, and use more sustainable materials in their packaging – and at the same time, EPR laws relieve local governments of some (or even all) of the financial burdens of waste management for packaging. 

 

Who Has Obligations to Report Packaging Data? What Entities Are Considered Producers?   

In EPR, the definition of “producer” can vary depending on state laws. However, “producer” typically includes any entity that is a brand holder, licensee, or anyone that manufactures, sells, imports, or distributes products in or into a jurisdiction with EPR laws for packaging.  

That said, not all producers will have obligations to report packaging data and pay fees under EPR laws. Most states have established a hierarchy of producer responsibility so that only one producer in a given product’s supply chain will be considered the “obligated producer” for that product. To understand if your business is considered to have compliance obligations, you may want to request an EPR assessment.   

Obligated producers generally include: 

  • Manufacturers: Organizations that manufacture products sold to either businesses or consumers. 
  • Brand Owners: Companies that own the brand under which the product is sold, regardless of who manufactures the product.  
  • Brand Licensees: Companies that sell products under a brand license. 
  • Importers: Organizations that import products into the US for sale.   
  • Distributors: Organizations that distribute products within the US.  
  • Retailers: Can be considered producers if they sell under their own brand or import products.  
 
 

Which US States Have Enacted EPR Laws for Packaging?  

The movement toward EPR in the US is gaining momentum, with five US states having passed EPR laws for packaging. Each state’s approach is unique, but most have the same sustainability goal: to reduce packaging waste and increase recycling – supported by producer funds.  

The EPR experts at RLG anticipate that the number of states passing packaging EPR laws will continue to increase over the coming years. Maryland and Illinois, for example, have passed needs assessments in order to gain a clearer understanding of the current state of packaging waste management, as well as a pathway for recycling improvements. These needs assessments are generally regarded as precursors to formal EPR laws for packaging.  

States that have already passed packaging EPR laws (at the time of this publication) are:  

  • California 
  • Colorado  
  • Maine 
  • Minnesota  
  • Oregon  
 

At the time of this publication, producers who potentially have obligations are encouraged to register with the Circular Action Alliance (CAA), an approved PRO in California, Colorado, and Oregon. 

 

Summary of California’s Packaging EPR Law: Senate Bill 54 (SB 54) 

California’s packaging EPR law, Senate Bill 54 (SB 54), also known as the Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act, passed in 2022 and is overseen by California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle).  

The law requires obligated producers to join a Producer Responsibility Organization (Circular Action Alliance [CAA]), report packaging data, and pay EPR fees. California’s EPR law has been designed to reduce waste by encouraging source reduction, but it will also fund environmental pollution mitigation, with producers expected to contribute 5 billion US dollars over ten years.   

Key Timelines for California’s EPR Law for Packaging: House Bill 22–1355 

  • July 1, 2024: CAA’s deadline for obligated producers to register
  • August 2025: Producers to report packaging data to CAA
  • April 2026: CAA target date to release fee schedule
  • January 2027: CAA and statutory producer fee obligations deadline
 
 

Summary of Colorado’s Packaging EPR Law 

Colorado’s EPR law for packaging is House Bill 22–1355, which became law in 2022 and is overseen by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). Producers must join a Producer Responsibility Organization (CAA), which will fund and manage the recycling of packaging materials and printed paper.  

House Bill 22–1355 aims to allocate EPR fees to increasing recycling rates by expanding residents’ access to recycling facilities and collection points throughout the state.  

Key Timelines for Colorado’s EPR Law for Packaging and Paper  

  • July 1, 2024: CAA’s deadline for obligated producers to register
  • October 2024: CDPHE-enforced producer registration deadline
  • August 2025: Producers to report packaging data to CAA
  • October 2025: CAA target date to release fee schedule
  • January 2026: CAA and statutory producer fee obligations deadline
 
 

Summary of Maine’s Packaging EPR Law: LD 1541 

Maine’s packaging EPR policy was implemented in 2021 through LD 1541, “An Act To Support and Improve Municipal Recycling Programs and Save Taxpayer Money.” The Maine Department of Environmental Protection oversees implementation and compliance. 

Producers must join a stewardship organization (SO) that manages the collection, recycling, and reporting process. They will also be required to report volumes and contribute to funding the program. LD 1541 aims to reduce packaging waste and improve recycling rates.  

Key Timelines for Maine’s EPR Law for Packaging 

  • Spring/Summer 2025: Estimated deadline for final adoption of rules 
  • 2026: Selection of stewardship organization 
  • 2026: First producer payments are due
 
 

Summary of Minnesota’s Packaging EPR Law 

Minnesota’s packaging EPR policy is enforced through the Packaging Waste & Cost Reduction Act (HF HF 3911 / SF 3877), which was passed in 2024 and is overseen by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Producers must join or create a Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) to fund and manage recycling and waste disposal processes.  

The Packaging Waste & Cost Reduction Act aims to reduce packaging waste, increase recycling rates, and encourage sustainable packaging. Producers will report data on packaging placed onto the market in Minnesota and pay corresponding EPR fees.   

Key Timelines for Minnesota’s EPR Law for Packaging  

  • January 1, 2025: Selection of PRO  
  • July 1, 2026: Deadline for producers to register with a PRO  
  • October 1, 2028: PRO must submit a stewardship plan 
 
 

Review of Oregon’s Packaging EPR Law  

Oregon’s paper and packaging EPR law, the Plastic Pollution and Recycling Modernization Act (Senate Bill 582), was passed in 2021 and is overseen by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Producers must join a Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) that manages the collections, recycling, and reporting process.  

Senate Bill 582 aims to reduce packaging waste, increase recycling rates, and promote sustainable packaging. Producers will report the materials and quantities of packaging placed on the market in Oregon and pay fees.  

Key Timelines for Oregon’s EPR Law for Packaging 

  • July 1, 2024: CAA’s deadline for obligated producers to register
  • September 2024: CAA to release preliminary fee schedule as part of the second program plan
  • March 2025: Producers to report packaging data to CAA
  • May 2025: CAA target date to release fee schedule
  • July 1, 2025: CAA producer fee obligations begin and statutory program implementation
 
 

What Producers Need To Do To Comply With Packaging EPR Laws in the United States 

To meet their obligations, producers must gather key attributes of packaging placed on the market in relevant jurisdictions and report that data to PROs. Producers must then make payments to PROs based on fee structures.  

Producers who rely on classic office spreadsheets find that gathering and collating packaging data is laborious, error-prone, and time-consuming. Retailers, especially those with white label or store brands, will need to gather packaging data from their suppliers and then verify that data to ensure no overpayments on EPR fees are made.  

In the same way that businesses hire accountants and payroll companies, many producers prefer to outsource packaging data management and compliance activities to experts rather than handle the work internally. 

 

How RLG Helps Producers Gather, Verify, and Report Packaging Data   

As part of the Reconomy family, RLG has over 30 years of experience assisting the world’s most iconic brands with packaging EPR data management and compliance.  

Our packaging database holds over 50 million SKUs that can be used to fill data gaps, verify data accuracy, compare SKUs, and more. Access plans currently start at a flat rate of less than $1,000. 

Producers with a solid handle on their data and who do not need data management assistance may benefit from RLG’s environmental compliance services. Our compliance experts can handle registrations, submit reports, review invoices, and manage payments across jurisdictions where producers may have obligations.  

Learn more by scheduling a 15-minute call with one of our EPR consultants today. 

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This article is for informational purposes only and should not be regarded as legal counsel. Information is valid as of the time of publication and is subject to change. Always refer to primary sources for the most up-to-date information.

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