In July, Maine was the first state to implement such a program. Democratic Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill that requires producers of products that involve packaging materials to pay into a new state fund. This fund will be used for reimbursement of municipalities for waste management and recycling costs.
Oregon approved a similar bill, which is currently awaiting the signature of the Democratic Governor. Yinka Bode George, the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators' environmental health manager, stated that Kate Brown and at least six other state legislatures also have similar bills pending. She said that at least four other states' lawmakers have expressed an interest in similar bills.
States with active bills, most of which are Democratic-leaning, include states with large, influential economies such as New York and California. These states have environmentalists who believe that shifting packaging disposal costs away form taxpayers to producers is long overdue.
Bode-George stated that more laws similar to Maine's would encourage industry to reduce excessive packaging. She added that "this culture of throwing away things after only one use is part the problem." "It is important that the material producers take responsibility for them."
Maine's bill aims to reduce plastic, paper, and other packaging waste. The state requires "producer payments." Companies can lower these payments by creating their own recycling programs or reducing packaging. The fees will be paid to a private company that will reimburse municipalities for their recycling and waste management costs. It will also invest in education that aims at improving recycling and reducing packaging.
Oregon's proposed law is slightly different in that it would require producers and manufacturers of packaging to create a nonprofit group tasked with developing a recycling plan for packaging materials.
These strategies are sometimes called "extended producer liability" by advocates. They are used widely in Europe and in some Canadian provinces. The National Waste & Recycling Association is a trade association based in Virginia. It said that it supports such programs if they are focused on "incentives for creating new markets for recycled materials," as buyers are required for all of these recyclables.
Brandon Wright, spokesperson for the group, stated that "the most important thing" is that there is a market.
The moves are being resisted by many sectors of American industry, who fear that new laws could increase the cost of doing business with certain states. Industry members warn that new recycling requirements could force companies to leave those states or increase the costs for consumers.
The American Institute for Packaging and the Environment (AMERIPEN), which represents the packaging industry, asked Mills for a veto of Maine's bill. The group's executive director Dan Felton said that the group plans to take an active part in any rulemaking process.
AMERIPEN had hoped to collaborate with Maine to create a new recycling program. However, the law approved leaves producers and people of Maine out of the process and forces them to pay the bill for a system in which the Maine Department of Environmental Protection is solely responsible. Felton stated.
Industries that rely on packaging but don't directly work in it have expressed concern about the proposed recycling laws. Robert Luria is the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company's government relations manager. He stated to a state committee that Maine's proposed recycling law has the potential to improve efficiency in Maine's recycling process.
Recycling, particularly of plastics, has been further complicated by China's decision to stop accepting plastic waste from other countries.
Advocates believe that the new recycling laws could reduce dependence on single-use plastic products and help solve this waste disposal problem. The bill in Maine sent "a strong message that it's now time for big companies and brands to do its part to curb plastic pollution, reduce wasteful packaging," Sarah Nichols from the Natural Resources Council of Maine said.
Maine industry representatives opposed to the bill are aware of the changes coming and are working together with the state on rules that they can accept.
Christine Cummings (executive director of the Maine Grocers & Food Producers Association) said that industry is also preparing to follow Maine's lead.
Cummings stated that "I believe this is just the beginning of what this program can evolve into both in Maine as well as around the country."