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EPR Laws: The Impact on Recycling

 by Jack McLellan,

What are Extended Producer Responsibility Laws?

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Laws are regulations that hold producers responsible for the full lifetime of their goods. Producers must have plans to collect and recycle old products once consumers dispose of them. While the government could apply EPR laws to almost any product, most regulations focus on recyclable materials such as e-waste, paper, cans, plastics, and packaging.

Extended producer responsibility regulations have been around in the EU for a while but have progressively been adopted by the rest of the world, including several different U.S. states. These regulatory changes will impact the recycling process in these states and, eventually, nationwide.

What States Have EPR Laws?

As of 2023, only six states have enacted EPR laws targeting recyclable materials: 

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Maine
  • Oregon
  • New Jersey
  • Washington

These regulations primarily focus on packaging waste. Given the ever-growing popularity of ecommerce, hitting $1.03 trillion in revenue in 2022, there has been an uptick in waste from packaging. Many states are creating laws to tackle these growing concerns about packaging sustainability. 

These laws can vary by state, even if the end goal is the same. Take California, for example, which aims to make all packaging 100% recyclable or compostable by 2032. Meanwhile, Maine, the first state to enact EPR laws, moves the cost of covering waste of packaging materials from things like cardboard boxes from consumers to producers. The end goal of both are the same, but their methods vary.

Over time, more states will likely adopt similar policies to these six. Some states, such as Illinois and New York, have introduced EPR legislation. These new laws are good news for the recycling industry, as we will see an uptick in recyclable materials going to recycling facilities rather than landfills.

What’s the Potential Outcome?

EPR laws have been successful in several countries outside of the U.S. The Recycling Partnership recently studied the potential impact of EPR laws based on data from different countries and existing recycling data from the U.S. The Recycling Partnership found that if legislators implemented EPRs in the U.S., residential recycling rates could rise by 48%. This could bring the U.S. up to reaching as high as 75% recycling rates.

This policy will do more than increase recycling rates. The Recycling Partnership stated that EPRs could:

  • Create thousands of new jobs in the recycling industry
  • Help reduce hundreds of thousands of metric tons of emissions
  • Save $13-$91 million of material value

Manage Increased Recycling Demand with GK

Increasing EPR laws benefit the recycling industry by creating more job opportunities and recycling facilities. General Kinematics carries equipment such as the DE-STONER® Air Classifier to help make sorting light recycled material, such as packaging, a breeze. To learn more about GK’s innovative recycling equipment, contact a recycling rep today, and we’ll help you prepare for any of your recycling needs.

Jack McLellan

Marketing Coordinator

Jack specializes in creating compelling digital marketing content such as social media, blog posts, newsletters, and more. He works with General Kinematics industry experts to develop educational content for the foundry, recycling, mining, and aggregate industries.