Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
UPSTREAM Hands State Officials Model Legislation for Optimizing Packaging Recycling

Today, environmental advocacy organization UPSTREAM announced the release of model legislation that state legislatures can adopt to optimize recycling, address litter and create jobs through shared responsibility for packaging. The model legislation was developed by UPSTREAM in consultation with local government officials and recycling experts throughout the country.

“Everyone wants to boost recycling and prevent litter. The good news is that we know how to do it. There are a suite of policy tools and operational tactics that have been proven to solve both problems,” said Matt Prindiville, Associate Director for UPSTREAM. “The bad news is that many of these ideas cost money, and that money has to come from somewhere. It’s fair for some of that funding to come from the companies who put the packaging out there in the first place.

UPSTREAM’s “Shared Responsibility for Packaging” Legislation proposes:

  • The creation of a Sustainable Packaging Trust to receive funds from producers of packaging to be used toward achieving a recycling rate of 75 percent by weight for all household packaging.

  • The Trust to be administered by a newly created Sustainable Packaging Authority, which will be governed by a board of directors, whose membership will include:

  • producers of products or product packaging

  • city and county solid waste agencies

  • recycling and solid waste collection companies

  • manufacturers and end-users receiving recyclable materials

  • and statewide environmental organizations.

  • The Sustainable Packaging Authority is charged with reducing the amount of post-consumer packaging that ends up as waste by:

  • improving the efficacy and infrastructure for collection, reuse and recycling of discarded post-consumer packaging;

  • compensating municipalities for the costs of collecting and handling discarded post-consumer packaging; and preventing and mitigating litter;

  • encouraging the reduction of packaging for consumer goods and the use of more reusable and recyclable materials in the packaging of consumer goods;

  • conducting outreach and education to encourage participation in the recycling of discarded post-consumer packaging and preventing litter.

“The model legislation is an evolution in thought concerning extended producer responsibility and packaging,” said Prindiville. “After years of attempting to replicate European systems, we realized we needed to develop a uniquely American model to address the different challenges and opportunities present in the US.”

Conversations with actors in multiple states have yielded bill introductions based on the model for 2015, most recently in Rhode Island. UPSTREAM expects several more states to introduce versions of the bill in 2016.

“The bottom line is that boosting recycling rates will require increased investment in recycling infrastructure,” said Prindiville. “Through our model legislation, that investment would be shared by the companies that put packaging into the marketplace.”

2014 saw the launch of the Closed Loop Fund – a $100 million fund backed by Walmart, P&G, Unilever, J&J, Keurig Green Mountain, Coca-Cola, Cargill and Goldman Sachs aimed at providing municipalities access to zero- and low-interest loans to increase recycling infrastructure in the US, with the added benefit of providing the companies a stable stream of recycled content to infuse back into their packaging. However, later that year a number of public interest organizations, including UPSTREAM, called on the fund’s backers to instead support proven policies to boost recycling, such as EPR, rather than giving out loans.

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