Companies that produce paper packaging, tires, or smoke detectors could be forced to assume financial responsibility for recycling their products if a trio of bills passes the General Assembly in the next few months.
Each bill concerns the subject of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs for their sector. EPR bills are an attempt by lawmakers to both cut down on the amount municipalities are spending to recycle materials and convince producers to innovate to cut down on their own costs.
House Bill 6486 would require tire manufacturers to join a stewardship program that would create a plan for collecting, recycling, and reusing old tires, including from residents looking to recycle tires from their own vehicles. That stewardship program would also be required to fund the program. This would go into effect on January 1, 2025.
House Bill 6664, brought by Governor Ned Lamont’s Office as part of his legislative priorities for this session, targets the sharp increase in paper and packaging from things like online shopping. The bill pertains specifically to single-use packaging rather than any recyclable packaging that is used to store an item and would largely target cardboard boxes and paper package envelopes. The bill also calls for its own stewardship program that would be entered into by manufacturers and which would fund the collection and recycling of those materials.
Stewardship organizations are defined by the bills as “a nonprofit organization, association or entity that assumes the responsibilities, obligations and liabilities … of multiple responsible parties for covered materials.” There would be different stewardship organizations for each different materials (tire companies wouldn’t participate in the same ones as packaging, for example) and each would be required to register with DEEP. They would also be required to establish an advisory committee made up of the DEEP Commissioner, municipal government representatives, waste management companies, and waste experts, among others, which would meet once a year to monitor the program. The bills linked above include additional details on how these programs would operate.
Finally, House Bill 6609 takes aim at smoke detectors in an effort to keep hazardous materials used in the products from entering into the municipal waste stream and potentially into the local environment. That bill doesn’t immediately establish an EPR, but instead requires the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Commissioner to submit a report on current disposal procedures, environmental concerns, costs of disposal to the state, and the efficacy of establishing an EPR for smoke detectors.
Proponents of EPRs – particularly those aimed at packaging companies — believe the programs will force manufacturers to be more conscientious moving forward. To cut down on their costs to recycle or otherwise dispose of their materials, they might find ways to use less material in those products or invest in materials that are more easily reused or enter into a much more cyclical waste system.
Opponents believe costs will be passed on to consumers making goods more expensive while limiting innovation opportunities.
There is particular opposition to the proposed paper and packaging EPR bill from trash haulers and recycling plant managers. They believe an EPR would not only make products more expensive but would also interrupt the state’s already robust recycling programs, gumming up the system with unnecessary additional steps, lowering the revenues for local waste removal companies, and disincentivizing further innovations in the sphere.
All three bills passed out of the Environment Committee earlier this session and have been added to the schedule for debate in the House of Representatives.