Exploring EPR for Packaging in North America

Over the past few decades, the North American continent has seen a number of laws passed that include extended producer responsibility (EPR) requirements for packaging and containers in their scope. Although the concept is relatively new in North America, the concept of EPR dates back to the early 1990s in Germany

In this blog, we will explore EPR laws that include packaging in their scope for US states, Canadian provinces, and nations in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

EPR Laws for Packaging in the United States

EPR for packaging legislation in the United States (US) is currently at the state level, with five active laws in the following states: 

California – SB 54 

In June of 2022, Governor Newson signed the Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act (SB 54) into law. In a blog from fall of 2023, we covered SB 54 and its exemptions, the definition of “producers,” and the role of PROs. 

Since our last blog on SB 54, news came out that CalRecycle (California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery) selected the Circular Action Alliance (CAA) as the state's producer responsibility organization (PRO). On December 28, 2023, CalRecycle released drafts of regulations and categorization of material types. 

Maine – S2145 

Maine passed their EPR law for packaging in July 2021 with their Stewardship Program for Packaging. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection mandates that identified producers pay into a fund based on “the amount and recyclability of packaging associated with their products.” Maine was the first state in the US to pass an EPR law for packaging and the third in NA as a whole.

Funds will finance waste management costs and the upgrading of Maine's recycling infrastructure and education efforts to encourage recycling among Mainers. Similar to other EPR programs we will cover in this blog, Maine’s program is operated by a “stewardship organization”—similar to a PRO—which manages the collection of funds and the day-to-day operations of the program. The selection of a stewardship organization is expected to take place in 2026

Colorado – HB 22-1355

Colorado enacted their EPR law for packaging, the Producer Responsibility Program for Statewide Recycling Act (House Bill 22-1355), on June 3, 2022. The law establishes a system in which “companies that sell products in packaging, paper products” fund a statewide recycling program to recycle identified materials. 

In May 2023, the State of Colorado chose the CAA to be the state’s designated PRO. Furthermore, the CAA appointed HDR Engineering, Inc. to complete a needs assessment to assess Colorado’s recycling “infrastructure, services, and costs,” develop a list of materials accepted at all recycling facilities, and develop recycling rate and collection targets on July 31, 2023. 

The timeline that was published by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment indicates that in Q1 2024 the needs assessment mentioned above was reviewed, stakeholder meetings for primary regulations were held, and primary regulations rule briefing began. In Q2 2024, it is expected that the program plan development for the PRO will be carried out (from Q2 to Q4 2024) and rulemaking hearings on primary regulations will take place.

Oregon – SB 582 

The state of Oregon passed their EPR program for packaging with the Plastic Pollution and Recycling Modernization Act (SB 582) in August of 2021, just months after Maine’s S2145. The act became effective January 1, 2022, and works to “make recycling easier for the public to use, expand access to recycling services, upgrade the facilities that sort recyclables, and create environmental benefits while reducing social and environmental harms, such as plastic pollution.” The State of Oregon expects “recycling program changes” by the year 2025.

The funding of these improvements to Oregon’s recycling system will come through fees (contributions) from producers and manufacturers of packaging, paper products, food serviceware, and more. The Recycling Modernization Act fact sheet highlights the implementation timeline for SB 582. In 2024, the planned activities include the following: rulemaking, first PRO program plans due, public procurement assessment due on May 15, first equity study due September 15, and first needs assessment for multi-family services due September 15 as well.

In recent news, the CAA (same PRO for Colorado and California) submitted an application to be a PRO for the state on March 31, 2024. In the application, CAA submitted a proposed Oregon Program Plan (2025-2027) with the following goals: 

  • Reduce the negative environmental, social, and health impacts from “end-of-life management of products and packaging” 

  • Decrease rate of recyclable materials going to landfill 

  • Improve Oregon citizens “participation, understanding, and equity” in Oregon’s recycling system 

  • Develop a system that fulfills “needs and regulatory requirements of the PRO, its members, and all other relevant stakeholders

*Maryland – SB 0222

In May of 2023, Governor Moore signed SB 0222 into law, which is a “study bill” as it does not currently include EPR requirements for packaging and calls for a needs assessment. The original draft, prior to being amended in April of 2023, included EPR for packaging requirements similar to other states mentioned above.

Recent actions related to SB 0222 include the Maryland Department of Energy announcing that the CAA would serve as a single PRO for packaging EPR for Maryland. If you’re keeping count, the CAA has already been selected as the PRO for California, Colorado, Maryland, and has submitted a proposal to serve as one of the PRO’s of Oregon—which would mean they would oversee 80% of active EPR programs for packaging in the US. 

In February of this year, the Maryland Department of Energy posted a Request for Proposal for a recycling needs assessment—announcing they were accepting proposals up until March 15, 2024. It will be interesting to track how SB 0222 evolves from a study bill and needs assessment into the nation’s fifth potential EPR program that covers packaging materials in its scope. 

Emerging EPR Laws for Packaging in the US

On the map above in light green, we highlighted US states that have introduced EPR bills that cover packaging in their scope but have yet to pass. These nine states include Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Washington. 

To understand the proposed EPR bills for these states, check out our research article from last fall. 

Now that we have highlighted EPR for packaging laws in the US, let's head north to explore EPR in the Canadian provinces. 

EPR Laws for Packaging in Canada 

Like the US, EPR laws in Canada are currently developed and managed by individual provinces, not federally.

Let’s explore EPR programs that cover packaging in their scope in 9 Canadian provinces:

Alberta – Extended Producer Responsibility Regulation 

Alberta’s EPR Regulation came into effect November 30, 2022 and contains two separate EPR programs: single-use products, packaging and printed paper products (PPP); and hazardous and special products (HSP). For the sake of this blog, we will focus on the requirements and timeline related to the PPP. 

The program is set to be completely implemented by April 2025 and will work to achieve the following objectives: 

  • Establish local recycling markets and infrastructure 

  • Make recycling programs more cost effective and efficient 

  • Allow the province to demonstrate environmental responsibility

The PPP EPR program focuses solely on residential and household waste (not accounting for industrial and institutional waste) and includes the following materials in its scope: 

  • Paper products (newspapers, packaging, corrugated fiberboard, printed paper, etc.)

  • Plastic products and packaging (including rigid and flexible) 

  • Metal and glass products and packaging materials 

The program is currently overseen by the Alberta Recycling Management Authority (ARMA), which has a 30+ year history managing recycling programs for various industries in Alberta. The latest action related to the PPP EPR system was the deadline on April 1, 2024 for identified producers to submit collection and management plans to ARMA. Both the PPP and HSP programs are set to go live April 1, 2025.

British Columbia – Packaging and Paper Product EPR Plan (RecycleBC)

British Columbia’s EPR for packaging and paper products dates back to 2014, making it Canada’s first EPR program for packaging. The program was revised in 2019 in which new requirements were laid out for PPP (paper and packaging products), including expanding collection, reducing contamination rates, and developing consistent measurement and reporting protocols. 

British Columbia’s packaging EPR law is overseen by RecycleBC, a non-profit that serves as British Columbia’s PRO. According to CircularMaterials.CA, British Columbia’s EPR program “collects over 200,000 tons of packaging and paper products” from residencies in BC annually. 

Packaging that falls under British Columbia’s EPR program includes: 

  • Primary packaging systems (point of sale)

  • Grouped / secondary packaging (goes to household)

  • Tertiary / distribution packaging (goes to household)

  • “Service Packaging” (pizza boxes, plastic carry out bags, etc.)

  • Packaging components and “ancillary elements”

It is important to note that for RecycleBC, “paper packaging” includes all materials made from a “cellulosic fiber source,” including but not limited to biomaterials like rice, bamboo, hemp, etc. 

*Manitoba – Packaging and Printed Paper Stewardship Regulation

The province of Manitoba introduced its EPR system for packaging in 2009, but is not a “full EPR program” as identified producers are only responsible for funding 80% of packaging and printed paper product recycling in the province. The PRO that oversees Manitoba’s program is Multi-Material Stewardship Manitoba (MSSM), who released a draft for a full EPR program in November of 2021.

The covered materials under the current MSSM plan include printed paper (newspaper, magazines, etc.), paper packaging, plastic packaging, steel and other metal packaging, aluminum packaging, and glass packaging. The current program also only applies to producers who have annual gross revenue greater than $750,000 Canadian dollars. 

New Brunswick – Clean Environment Act (Designated Materials Regulation)

The province of New Brunswick introduced their EPR program for packaging with a May 2023 amendment to the Clean Environment Act (2008), which introduced the New Brunswick Stewardship Plan for Packaging and Paper. The sole PRO for New Brunswick's EPR program is Circular Materials, under the wing of Circular Materials Atlantic. 

The designated materials under New Brunswick’s EPR program are organized into two categories: 4.1 Paper and 4.2 Packaging and Packaging-Like Products. The Packaging and Packaging-Like Products program covers an array of packaging materials and types at the primary, convenience, and transport levels. The materials covered include paperboard, corrugated cardboard, clear and colored PET bottles, jars, and jugs, a range of other polymers, aluminum and glass and more.

The full transition to New Brunswick’s EPR program for paper and packaging materials is projected to be completed by the year 2027. The timeline claims that Phase 1, which includes “Group 1” of regional service commissions (RSCs) accepting contracts with Circular Materials Atlantic, is set to end May 1, 2024. In the years 2024 to 2027, it is expected that school and public space services for recycling and collection of identified materials will come to fruition. 

Nova Scotia – EPR for Packaging, Paper Products, and Packaging-Like products Regulations (Environment Act) 

The province of Nova Scotia introduced their EPR program for packaging and paper products on August 1 of 2023. The regulations fall under Section 102 of the Environment Act, which was originally introduced in 1995 and has been amended numerous times throughout the years. 

The full EPR program rollout is scheduled for December 1, 2025. Until the full program launch, there are two other requirements for producers. Identified producers have to submit a 2024 report covering 2023 data to the WeRecycle portal by September 1, 2024. Producers must also submit 2023 data on paper and packaging products to Divert NS (Nova Scotia’s PRO) by October 1, 2024. 

Ontario – Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act (Blue Box Regulations)

The province of Ontario’s EPR program for packaging and packaging-related products came into effect in 2016, classifying these materials as Blue Box materials. Materials that fall under the Blue Box label include the following: beverage containers, glass, flexible plastic, rigid plastic, metal, paper, and certified compostable products and packaging. 

The PRO for Ontario’s EPR program is Circular Materials; the organization is also in charge of establishing a “common collection system” for future PROs operating in the province. The full program is expected to roll out on January 1, 2026, with a number of deadlines beforehand.

By May 15, 2024, identified producers must submit a 2024 report (covering 2023 data) to WeRecycle Portal—only if electing Circular Materials to report on their behalf to the Resource Productivity & Recovery Authority (RPRA). For producers who want to report directly to the RPRA, their deadline is May 31, 2024. 

Québec – Éco Entreprises Québec (ÉEQ)

Québec’s EPR program for packaging and paper products came into effect in 2022 and is managed by the Éco Entreprises Québec (ÉEQ), the PRO for the province. ÉEQ works to boost curbside recycling in the province and create incentives for “eco-design” and sustainable innovation in the packaging realm. Éco Entreprises Québec (ÉEQ) has been around since 2005, but was appointed as a PRO in 2022. 

According to the ÉEQ site, the organization represents identified producers to assist with fee structures and funding to expand curbside recycling services. The PRO also lays out four strategies for “ecodesign packaging”:

  • Responsible procurement 

  • Optimized design 

  • End-of-life management 

  • Communication

*Saskatchewan – Multi-Material Stewardship Western (MMSW)

The province of Saskatchewan launched their EPR program for packaging and paper materials in 2016 with the Multi-Material Stewardship Western. To date, the program only requires identified producers of paper and packaging materials to fund 75% of recycling programs in the province—similar to that of Manitoba. 

The main PRO for Saskatchewan is MMSW, who is working with Circular Materials to expand the program and bring a “nationally integrated approach to recycling.” The MMSW helps identified producers meet the requirements of the Household Packaging and Paper Stewardship Program Regulations which came into effect in March of 2023.

It will be interesting to follow the development of Saskatchewan’s current EPR program into a full EPR program which makes producers responsible for funding 100% of recycling services in the state—like that of Ontario or New Brunswick.

Yukon – Extended Producer Responsibility Regulation 

Yukon’s EPR program for packaging and paper products is the newest in Canada, coming into effect January 25, 2024. The full transition to extended producer responsibility is scheduled for October 1, 2025. 

The designated materials under Yukon’s EPR program include: 

  • Primary, convenience, and transport packaging 

  • Flyers, booklets, newspapers, and other paper products 

  • Straws, plates, bags, and other single-use products 

The regulation lays out the requirements for parties interested in serving as a PRO, including submitting a plan containing information including but not limited to types of designated materials collected, targets for collection and recycling, and strategies for stakeholder engagement. 

Exemptions from Yukon’s EPR program include small producers who are: 

  • Registered charity, or 

  • Gross revenue in Yukon in most recent fiscal year less than $1 million CAD, or 

  • Imported or supplied less than one ton of designated materials into Yukon in most recent fiscal year 

The next deadlines before the planned program launch in October 2025 include the stewardship plan due by September 24, 2024, and producer data for 2024 due May 31, 2025

EPR for Packaging in Costa Rica

The nation of Costa Rica has a long history of environmental regulations that work to protect the nation's pristine terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Costa Rica’s approach to EPR for packaging is part of their 2010 Law for Comprehensive Waste Management. Costa Rica’s waste management approach, as outlined by the 2010 law, is based on principles of shared responsibility, EPR, and citizen education and participation. 

Costa Rica's waste management and EPR approach extends to "waste producers," which includes those who produce packaging and packaging-related products. The program is managed by the Ministry of Health and requires the special handling of packaging and all types of municipal solid waste (MSW). 

At the end of May of 2020, the Costa Rican Special Permanent Environmental Commission approved a “substitute text” for EPR for an overall amendment on the 2010 Integral Waste Management Act. The new draft proposes new “priority waste products,” including e-waste, batteries, tires, and packaging. The draft shifts the burden of life cycle management of “priority waste products” on the “waste generator,” shifting from a model more similar to “shared responsibility.” 

The new draft also calls for a national education program for comprehensive waste management, fines for those who do not comply, and for consumers to sort identified waste and to return products to drop off locations. Costa Rica’s history of environmental legislation is comprehensive and intersectional, acting as a model for other Latin American nations and the world to follow. 

EPR for Packaging in The Dominican Republic

In October of 2020, The Dominican Republic established General Law 255-20 on Comprehensive Management of Co-processing of Solid Waste. The 2020 law is part of a broader strategy to develop a National Action Plan for Marine Litter.

The EPR program part of General Law 255-20 is still relatively nascent, only covering packaging materials like foams, single-use plastic sleeves, and plastic bottles. However, it is noted that a specific “national plan” will be developed and managed for each “priority waste,” which now includes different types of plastic packaging. Similar to other EPR programs, the government will place taxes on identified materials to help fund proper waste management. 

The Dominican Republic’s EPR program is overseen by a sole PRO, referred to as The Program for Comprehensive Waste Management (PROGIRS). PROGIRS serves as an arm of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, responsible for managing and enforcing obligations under General Law 255-20—including EPR requirements.

An Osaka Blue Ocean Vision site covering progress around the regulation highlights a number of challenges associated with carrying out General Law 255-20, including: 

  • Need for recycling system improvement 

  • Lack of local waste management capacity 

  • Lack of data collection related to waste 

  • Lack of data collection related to marine plastic litter and waste 

  • Lack of awareness among citizens, local governments, and organizations 

  • Lack of financial incentives for sustainable waste management 

  • Lack of financial incentives for sustainable technology development 

  • Project delays caused by COVID-19 pandemic 

Similar to Costa Rica’s program, the Dominican Republic’s EPR framework is still under development and has a limited scope compared to other EPR programs covered in this article. It will be fascinating to follow how General Law 255-20 continues to develop, potentially expanding its scope to cover packaging materials of all types, not just plastic.  

How to Prepare for EPR

EPR programs that include packaging in their scope are emerging in North America and the world at large. In order to stay compliant with current and emerging regulations, you must develop an understanding of a packaging system's entire lifecycle—from cradle to grave. 

We Can Help! 

Here at the Packaging School, we offer a Certificate of Sustainable Packaging (CSP) which will get you up to speed on sustainable packaging design, measurement, and strategy. Learn more about our 40-hour, 100% online program at: https://packagingschool.com/certifications/get-to-know-csp.

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