Extended producer responsibility in United States

By / In EPR / April 8, 2024

Over the past year, extended product responsibility has become a frequent topic of discussion in government agencies in many US states.

With the emergence of product liability rules, companies selling their products in the United States will be forced to think about and plan for the management of their products after their end-of-life. The upcoming EPR program will shift waste management responsibilities that have traditionally been handled by consumers or state and local governments to manufacturers and importers.


EPR in simple words

Extended Producer Responsibility is legislation that is being introduced to reduce the amount of waste that companies generate when producing their own products at the end of their life.

The law will effectively shift the responsibility for product waste from the government to businesses, companies, importers, and manufacturers operating in the United States.

The framework will encourage a change in attitudes toward product design, reusability of items, and recycling rates.


EPR for packaging in the USA

EPR rules have been in place for a long time across Europe, and the most popular among them are the packaging rules, which will be introduced first in the United States.

As in the EU, the EPR rules for packaging are expected to require producers to make certain environmental contributions and report on the amount of waste generated for the following categories:

  • paper, cardboard;
  • glass;
  • ferrous metals;
  • aluminum;
  • plastics;
  • beverage carton packaging;
  • other composite packaging;
  • other materials.


Who is a producer?

The meaning of “producer” is somewhat different from the European interpretation, but quite similar. For the United States, the EPR’s responsibilities will be more closely linked to the brand.

If a product is sold packaged under the manufacturer’s own brand, then the manufacturer is the “producer”. However, if the product is manufactured by someone who is not the brand owner, the “producer” is the holder of the trademark or brand license, regardless of whether the trademark is registered in the relevant state.

Nevertheless, the absence of intellectual property rights does not necessarily mean that a company has no obligations under the EPR program.

It is important to note that a foreign company may have EPR obligations if it is the first to distribute the product in the state, even with online sales. Companies selling goods online will be required to fully assess their obligations under EPR laws.


State-by-state overview

Over the past year, 14 states have held some sort of meeting or discussion on draft legislation to implement EPR rules. Most of them will establish producer responsibility companies (PROs) that can be joined to comply with the approved rules or can do so independently by following several requirements. In 2024, the authorities of such states as New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Tennessee, and others are expected to pass a series of final bills that will put postal EPR rules into effect as early as 2025. In the requirements they set forth, the government will establish performance goals for each type of material covered at 5, 10, and 15-year intervals. A nationwide target will also be set for the level of packaging recycling at least initially from 25% to 70% by 2050. This will encourage the authorities to increase the level of packaging recycling, reuse, and preserve the ecology and environment in the future.


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