Editor’s Note: On August 9, 2021, we reported that the recently signed Maine Extended Producer Responsibility legislation included printed paper with packaging. The inclusion of printed paper as a covered material was inaccurate as the law only covers packaging. The packaging that is subject to the new law includes printed paper packaging as well as many forms of plastic packaging. Below is the revised announcement
On July 13, 2021, Maine enacted the nation’s first law for packaging-based extended producer responsibility (EPR) program. The regulatory process to formally establish the program will commence in December 2023.
EPR laws are not new and those covering printed paper and packaging have been in place in several provinces in Canada and many countries in Europe, however, the passage of this law sends a clear signal that states are changing the way recycling will be managed in the United States. At least 13 other states and Congress are considering similar laws. This growing popularity of these laws is a direct result of increased awareness of the challenges associated with recycling certain materials including packaging.
The new law, LD 1541, shifts the costs of managing product packaging waste, including both recyclable and nonrecylable products, from municipalities and consumers to “producers.” Producers are those companies that are placing covered products into the marketplace.
The Maine law requires producers to report on the types and quantities of packaging materials sold into the state. The law establishes a Stewardship Organization that will be responsible for determining the fees producers of these products will have to pay on an annual basis. The fee is intended to account for the disposal and recycling costs associated with packaging materials. The fees collected will be passed along to municipalities that have traditionally borne the cost of recycling or disposing of these wastes. Unless otherwise exempt, producers will not be allowed to sell or distribute products in Maine without complying with the law.
There are several exemptions identified in the law and some of them are based on sales, quantity of packaging used, or type of producer organization. For example, companies that have sales of $2 million are exempt, except for the first three years of the program where the level is $5 million. Also, any producer that put packaging into the market weighing less than 1 ton is also exempt. There is a 15 ton exemption for perishable food packaging. The state also has the ability to narrow the definition of a “package”.
PRINTING United Alliance did not support this legislation as it will have significant cost implications for the printing industry and its customers. In British Columbia, the EPR fees range from approximately $300-600 per ton in Canadian dollars, depending on the material. PRINTING United Alliance will monitor this and other EPR initiatives across the United States.