NWPSC April 2020 Newsletter

Header V1

April 2020

While the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted everyday life, there is still new legislation, studies, and reporting on recycling and product stewardship programs. All the best in these difficult times.

EPR for PPP: new reportsResponsible Recycling Task Force study report

Two new reports studying extended producer responsibility (EPR) for packaging and paper products (PPP) provide further validation of the benefits of EPR systems over the current fragmented recycling landscape in the United States.

Report and Model of the RRTF
EPR Policy Framework and Implementation Model: Residential Recycling of Packaging and Paper Products in Washington State (PDF). This March 2020 report from the Responsible Recycling Task Force (RRTF), with representatives from the King County Solid Waste Division, Seattle Public Utilities, cities in King County, solid waste management companies, and other stakeholders, is the culmination of efforts to respond to changing recycling markets since the task force formed in April 2018, and to develop a "comprehensive, statewide stewardship policy approach that helps achieve a funded, robust, and harmonized curbside recycling system throughout Washington State." The report includes a policy framework for an EPR system for residential recyclables and a conceptual model for how an EPR system might work in Washington State.

The report recommends "immediate, mid-term, and long-term Action Items" to address existing challenges. The Action Items were developed by following the "responsible recycling framework" which calls for recycling systems to:

  • Focus on the quality vs. quantity of recyclables.
  • Use consistent messaging across the region.
  • Prioritize domestic processing and markets.
  • Consider the social and environmental effects of exporting recyclables.
  • Create domestic demand for recyclables.
  • Realize that responsible recycling is not free.
  • Measure real recycling.

Read the executive summary (PDF) and full report on the Responsible Recycling Task Force website.

EPR for PPP report by PSIPSI report extended producer responsibility for packaging and printed paper
EPR for Packaging and Paper Products: Policies, Practices, and Performance. Authored by the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI), with assistance from the NWPSC, this report examines the problems faced by US recycling programs and how extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs in four Canadian provinces have increased packaging recovery and recycling, reduced contamination, and developed markets for difficult-to-recycle materials. The report also provides a detailed case study of the packaging EPR program in British Columbia (Recycle BC), North America's first full producer responsibility program for packaging and paper products (PPP). Read the full report, a fact sheet, and press release on PSI's website.


Federal "Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act" introduced
In February, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) unveiled their comprehensive legislation to tackle the plastic waste crisis, the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020.

The Act "will provide badly-needed national leadership – reducing the amount of wasteful plastic and reforming our broken waste and recycling collection system. It will shift the burden of cleanup to where it belongs – to the corporations that produce this waste." The Act would:

  • Require big corporations take responsibility for their pollution, requiring producers of plastic products to design, manage, and finance waste and recycling programs.
  • Spur innovation, incentivizing big corporations to make reusable products and items that can actually be recycled.
  • Create a nationwide beverage container refund program, which is successful at the state level.
  • Reduce and ban certain single-use plastic products that are not recyclable.
  • Establish minimum recycled content requirements for beverage containers, packaging, and food-service products, while standardizing recycling and composting labeling.
  • Spur massive investments in U.S. domestic recycling and composting infrastructure, while pressing pause on new plastic facilities until critical environment and health protections are put in place. 

The legislation's announcement garnered positive press from The New York Times, Rolling Stone, National Geographic, Time and Resource Recycling.

Maine considers EPR for packaging bill
In March, Maine's legislature held hearings on a new packaging EPR bill, An Act To Support and Increase the Recycling of Packaging (LD 2104); though it did not move forward it was approved to "carry over." Waste Dive closely examined the bill, including its supportive momentum from Maine municipalities, and its similarity to Quebec's EPR program and differences from British Columbia's EPR program. Scott Cassel of PSI is quoted saying, "There's a dynamic tension between the governments wanting control over the system, to ensure that they obtain the results that they're seeking, and the producers on the other hand who want more flexibility and autonomy to make the changes that they think are necessary to achieve those goals." According to Waste Dive, this legislation was the result of an act last year that directed Maine's Dept. of Environmental Protection with "developing a legislative framework for packaging EPR."

Oregon's legislative session was cut short for the second year in a row due to a walk-out by Republican legislators.

Washington's legislature convened and adjourned on-time this year, and held hearings on but did not pass Batteries stewardship, Sharps stewardship, and Right to Repair bills. The legislature did pass several other recycling related bills: Reusable Bags (signed into law); Minimum recycled content requirements (vetoed by Governor); Labeling of disposable wipes (aka Flushable Wipes: signed into law); Encouraging compost procurement and use (signed into law with a partial veto). Read Zero Waste Washington's thorough coverage for more information.

In addition, the Washington legislature passed ESHB 2645 concerning the photovoltaic module stewardship and takeback program, which fixes loopholes in the existing solar photovoltaic stewardship law. The Governor signed this into law but vetoed a section which would have required a stakeholder work group and report to the legislature.

Upcoming Events

With many of 2020's previously scheduled conferences and meetings cancelled or delayed, if you are healthy and have time, here are upcoming as well as previously recorded webinars that may be of interest:

Engage with the Northwest Product Stewardship Counciltwitter icon 30x30
Add your voice and join the Northwest Product Stewardship Council (NWPSC) as an Associate, Steering, or Community member.
Follow the NWPSC on Twitter (@StewardshipNW) for product stewardship information from Washington, Oregon and elsewhere.