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EPR Programs Expand in Canada and the U.S.

Woman holding box of recycling

Ontario’s provincial government recently announced expansions to its producer-led Blue Box recycling program. The update to Ontario’s extended producer responsibility (EPR) program will expand service to more communities and standardize the list of materials that can be recycled across the province.  The expansion will also make producers fully responsible for the cost and operation of the program. Ontario’s government expects that this change will result in an estimated savings of $156 million annually for local governments. The transition to the enhanced Blue Box program will be staggered from 2023 to 2025.

Below the border, Maine became the first U.S. state to pass a comprehensive EPR bill, LD 1541. If signed by Maine Governor Janet Mills,* the bill would require packaging producers to make payments to a stewardship organization based on the net weight of each type of packaging material they sell.  Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will decide the fee schedule based on collection and processing costs per ton. The bill also includes an eco-modulation system that charges producers less for packaging that has increased levels of recycled content.

On June 25, 2021, the Oregon legislature passed SB 582, the Plastic Pollution and Recycling Modernization Act. SB 582 would require certain producers to join, pay graduated membership fees, and provide information to a producer responsibility organization (PRO). PROs would be required to maintain a registry of members with a combined market share of at least 10 percent, notify Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) of non-compliance by members, and ensure responsible end markets for covered products. The bill would also establish an Oregon Recycling System Advisory Council, which would make recommendations to both PROs and the DEQ. Oregon Governor Kate Brown has yet to sign SB 582.**

Notably, both the Maine and Oregon bills exclude beverage containers as they are covered under other recycling programs.

* After this article was posted, LD 1541 was signed into law by Governor Janet Mills on July 12, 2021.

** After this article was posted, SB 582 was signed into law by Governor Kate Brown on August 6, 2021.