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The clever way some states are trying to reduce waste, boost recycling

Fast Company: “An increasing number of states see an answer in an innovative regulation that tackles trash on the front end, incentivizing manufacturers to make their product packaging more easily recyclable or else pay to recycle it on the back end. The laws, known collectively as Extended Producer Responsibility, or EPR, could, some experts say, be a partial solution to the problem of diminishing landfill capacity. The main target is plastics pollution. A study released last week by Greenpeace USA, an environmental advocacy group, found that the United States recycled only 5%-6% of its plastic waste last year, down from a high of 9.5% in 2014 and 8.7% in 2018. In the past two years, four states—California, Colorado, Maine and Oregon—have enacted EPR laws, and at least a dozen other states, including Tennessee, have considered EPR bills. Scott Cassel, founder and CEO of the Product Stewardship Institute, a nonprofit that has pushed Extended Producer Responsibility legislation around the country, said fast-filling landfills such as Nashville’s are driving the effort, along with the overall environmental benefits of reducing the emissions and waste that comes from producing plastic packaging. EPR laws are increasingly common in Europe and Canada, and Cassel hopes recent state legislative action will bring a significant change to waste management in the United States. Maine Democratic Gov. Janet Mills signed the nation’s first EPR law in July 2021. The Maine measure, which takes effect in 2026, doesn’t ban any type of packaging. Instead, it levies a fee on producers based on their packaging choices and the net amount of packaging they sell in the state. The law defines a producer as the brand owner of a packaged product or, if the brand is from overseas, the importer of the product into Maine…”

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