Upstream Publications

EPR is the Answer

EPR is the Answer

The US stands as an outlier amidst global efforts to more sustainably manage the environmental impacts of packaging, but changing conditions are creating new support for EPR

By Matt Prindiville and Jamie Rhodes, UPSTREAM

The debates around extended producer responsibility for packaging – where consumer goods companies pay some or all of the costs for managing packaging waste – have been raging in the US for more than six years. During this time, UPSTREAM has organized, facilitated, and participated in multiple dialogues and forums with consumer brands, policy makers, public interest groups, local governments, packaging suppliers, and waste and recycling companies. While there has been significant opposition from most affected consumer goods companies, there has also been a slow but steady groundswell of support building from local and state governments, as well as an increasing openness from other business sectors, especially in the last year.

The principal drivers for this increasing attention are three-fold: 1) the rapid downturn and general uncertainty in recycled commodities markets; 2) the changing mix of the packaging waste stream away from traditional recyclable materials toward low-value “flexible” plastic packaging materials; and 3) a growing recognition of the increasing costs borne by local government to manage plastics not only in the waste stream, but also in the environment, commonly known as “plastic pollution”…


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