Maine has become the first US state to place a requirement on producers of packaging (brand owners) to pay for the cost of its recycling under a Law (LD 1541) that establishes an extended producer responsibility (EPR) program.
Large packaging producers will be required to pay for the collection and recycling of cardboard boxes, plastic containers, and other packaging materials, as well as covering the costs of the disposal of non-recyclable packaging. Producers will pay annual (per-ton) fees to a new Stewardship Organisation that are based on the quantity and type of packaging they place on the market in Maine. The Law also provides an incentive for producers to design and manufacture packaging which is easier to recycle and reuse.
Any small business making less than $5M gross revenue is exempt for the first three years, the threshold then drops to $2M. Producers making less than 1 ton of packaging per year are also exempt as are non-profit organisations and small farmers of perishable foods.
The scope of the Law covers all types of packaging made from any material. However, the Law does exclude some packaging applications, including beverage containers (these are covered under Maine’s container deposit program), long-term storage materials, and paint containers.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will initiate the rulemaking process by December 2023. The Rulemaking process will establish the details of the program’s creation and implementation, addressing issues such as producer payment schedules, what the minimum list of recyclables is, and setting specific program goals and targets. The Maine DEP will then appoint a Stewardship Organisation. Maine’s EPR packaging program could be fully implemented as early as 2024.
It is anticipated that other US states will follow Maine’s lead and also implement packaging EPR regulations. In Oregon, Senate Bill 582 which will establish an EPR program for packaging is now waiting for final signature by the governor as it has already been passed by the state’s legislature. Several other US states also have active packaging Bills in various stages of moving through the law-making process.
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