Policy Position

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) 

An extended producer responsibility system in the U.S. could help significantly increase recycling rates of plastic and other materials, keeping these valuable materials in use and out of landfills and our environment. 

EPR Can Contribute to Recycling Goals 

America’s Plastic Makers® are working toward an ambitious circular economy goal: 100% of U.S. plastic packaging re-used, recycled, or recovered by 2040. To increase the recycling rate for plastic, our nation’s recycling system must be expanded and modernized. Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is a policy tool for funding infrastructure improvements to fill the gaps in the current recycling system for all materials, including plastic.

Other countries have implemented EPR systems that help increase access to recycling and create more recycled content. Under most EPR systems, product makers are charged a fee to support the recycling infrastructure and public education. The system would help create financial incentives to design packaging for recycling, use more recycled content, and create less waste.

The system would help build a path toward a circular economy in which all types of packaging are reused or remade instead of discarded. 

More background on EPR here

How to Create a Successful EPR System

To be successful in the U.S., effective EPR must include:

  • Infrastructure buildout
    EPR legislation should aim to invest in the necessary infrastructure to increase the recycling ratethrough improved access, collection, sortation, and education.
  • Technological neutrality
    All forms of recycling (i.e., mechanical and advanced recycling) should be included. Advanced recycling must count toward the recycling rate and recycled content.
  • Certification
    Plastic that is independently certified should qualify as recycled plastic in the EPR system.
  • Mass balance recognition
    Recycled plastic may be attributed through a mass balance accounting system. More info on mass balance here.
  • Special assessment
    A producer responsibility organization (PRO) overseeing the EPR system may utilize a special assessment to support the infrastructure to increase the recycling rate for specific items.
  • Open material markets
    Programs should establish fair, open, and competitive markets for post-use materials within EPR systems.

EPR must not contain the following:

  • Material switching or production caps:
    An EPR system must not include policies that encourage material switching or production caps.
  • Non-EPR provisions:
    An EPR system must not include policies, including bans or restrictions on resins, plastic products or chemistries, that have little nexus to recycling or are more appropriately addressed in other regulations.

Principles to Support an Effective EPR System

Principles for collective support of EPR also include:

  • Cost allocation Cost should be allocated by material/packaging type, weight, and characteristics pursuant to a needs assessment.
  • Fees support plan Fees should fund access, collection, education, and infrastructure to achieve the plan’s goals.
  • PRO governance A PRO should be producer-led and empowered to execute activities needed for successful outcomes and to oversee a needs assessment.
  • Secondary sortation Secondary sortation (meaning subsequent sortation of materials following the initial sortation) should be specifically authorized.
  • Eco-modulated fees Fees should be based on the weight of the packaging and other factors focused on the material’s environmental impact.
  • Sunset Once assessment-identified goals are achieved, the PRO plan should terminate, leaving the modern/expanded system in place.
  • New product or material pathway To encourage market innovation, transitional requirements for newly developed products and materials should be acceptable.
  • Exemptions Exemptions should be allowed when required to support public health and supply chain needs that are critical for U.S. interests.
  • Government oversight Appropriate federal and state agencies should provide oversight of the EPR system to ensure smart governance.
  • Dedicated funding Funds collected under the EPR system must be spent solely on infrastructure buildout and supporting functions and remain separate from general government revenues.

EPR Can Help Enable a Circular Economy

Waste in the environment, including plastic waste, is never acceptable. An effective EPR system would help improve the recycling rate for plastic and other materials and keep these valuable materials out of landfills and our environment. All contributing to a circular economy in which materials are reused instead of discarded.