Oregon became the second state to require packaging, paper products, and food service goods manufacturers to share responsibility for supporting recycling programs within the state when Governor Kate Brown signed SB 582, known as the Plastic Pollution and Recycling Modernization Act, in August . 6. Senator Michael Dembrow and Rep. Janeen Sollman were the main sponsors of the bill.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed a similar Extended Producer Responsibility Act (EPR) that went into effect on July 12th.
Under the new Oregon law, brand owners who sell packaging, paper products, and grocery items in Oregon will join stewardship organizations and pay fees to help improve and expand recycling programs and infrastructure across the country. This new packaging EPR program aims to reduce the impact of waste on the environment and human health, keep plastics out of rivers and oceans, and take steps to address the unfair impact of the waste system on vulnerable communities, according to lawmakers.
“This new law will give Oregon fee payers a much more accessible, responsible, and stable recycling system,” said Scott Cassel, CEO and founder of the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI), which campaigns for the EPR to promote responsible recycling. Legislation sets in. . “It will also provide financial incentives for manufacturers to make their packaging more sustainable and funding for local communities for reuse and waste prevention programs.”
Under the new system, consumer brand payments will cover about a quarter of the cost of a modernized recycling system. Unlike Maine’s law, which covers all recycling costs, under Oregon law, manufacturers do not cover the collection costs, which continue to be borne by private and commercial fee payers. Local authorities will retain operational control of collection services and public education programs, while funding from manufacturers will enable improvements such as upgrading recycling facilities, broader collection services and more accessible educational resources.
Manufacturers finance their obligations through covered product fees they pay to stewardship organizations. These fees are based on factors such as recyclability, use of post-consumer recycled content, and the impact on the life cycle of the materials used. The largest manufacturers also have to carry out a life cycle assessment of 1 percent of their products every two years.
The new law will create a unified nationwide collection list and expand recycling access for apartment buildings and people in rural and remote communities. A new multi-stakeholder group known as the Oregon Recycling System Advisory Council will advise the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and stewardship organizations on key elements of the new program, including manufacturers’ implementation plans.
Oregon’s law promotes equity and environmental justice by requiring Oregon DEQ to conduct regular studies on access to recycling and enact new permit and certification requirements for processors to provide living wages and benefits to their employees. Recycling processing plants will also need to meet new performance standards, such as material quality and reporting, and will work with consumer brands to ensure that the materials collected reach socially and environmentally responsible end markets. The cost of meeting these new standards is also offset by producer support.
“It is encouraging to see that the new Oregon law contains extensive provisions to address recycling inequalities and environmental justice,” said Sydney Harris, Policy and Program Manager and Packaging Lead at PSI. “We have these elements in PSI’s policy model and hope that they will be included in all EPR laws for packaging.”
PSI has been promoting EPR for packaging for 15 years and has developed a model law that has informed the laws introduced in eight states, including Oregon, over the past two years. Oregon’s bill arose out of a multi-year stakeholder engagement process led by Oregon DEQ to gather input and find solutions that are best for the state.
Oregon is one of the nation’s leading providers of successful EPR programs. Working with PSI, state and local governments, the paint industry, and other key players, Oregon became the first state in the country to pass EPR laws for paints in 2009. There are also EPR programs for electronics and pharmaceuticals, as well as a decade-long EPR program for beverage containers.