UPSTREAM Releases “Shared Responsibility for Packaging” Model Legislation – 04/28/2015

Campaigns: EPR for Packaging, Press Releases, Recycling & Zero Waste, Sustainable Packaging Policy


April 28, 2015

Contact:  Matt Prindiville, UPSTREAM; 207-902-0054

Extended producer responsibility evolves in US to create framework to increase recycling, tackle litter and grow jobs  

Today, UPSTREAM announced the release of model legislation that state legislatures can adopt to optimize recycling, address litter and grow green 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.”

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a public policy approach that creates a framework for consumer goods companies to mitigate the environmental impacts of their products and packaging. With packaging, EPR policies have traditionally focused on producers collecting and recycling the packaging they produce, although recent efforts have expanded EPR to include reducing packaging, using more sustainable materials and preventing litter. Around the world, over one billion peoples live in jurisdictions where consumer goods companies that put packaging into the marketplace help pay – either in part or in full – for the costs of collection, recycling and litter prevention.

The “Shared Responsibility for Packaging” Legislation would:

  • Create 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 will 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; and
  • 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 (EPR) and packaging,” said Matt Prindiville, Associate Director. “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.”

In March of 2014, UPSTREAM co-facilitated a forum on EPR for Packaging, which included representatives from consumer brands, commodity associations, packaging suppliers, recycling businesses, NGOs and local governments. While there was no consensus on how to move EPR policy forward, the forum provided insights that led to additional projects. Shortly after the forum, UPSTREAM launched a six-month dialogue with select local governments around the country which produced, Advancing Local Governments Interests through EPR for Packaging, a discussion paper intended to engage US local governments on these issues. The organization is currently facilitating a dialogue with recycling businesses and commodities suppliers.

“After organizing and participating in several dialogues, we realized that the EPR logjam in the United States came down to fundamental concerns around financial exposure for consumer brands, and issues of control and fairness for local governments and the recycling industries,” said Prindiville. “We believe that these are solvable problems and have attempted to reconcile the needs of these competing interests in the model bill.”

“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.”

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


UPSTREAM is a US-based environmental organization dedicated to creating a healthy, just and sustainable society by addressing the root causes of environmental harm. Our mission is to advance sustainability, end plastic pollution and reduce climate disruption through product-focused environmental policies.

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