Packaging produces lots of waste, and currently
According to trade organizations, 25 percent of the materials that are collected for recycling in the U.S. are rejected and either burned or disposed of in landfills instead..
Local government agencies all over the U.S. handle waste management by supplying it with tax as well as user charges. In the past, in the year 2018, the U.S. exported huge quantities of recyclable materials, mostly to China. In the year after, China has banned all foreign scrap imports. Other countries that were recipients, such as Vietnam, also followed suit, which led to the waste disposal crisis in the wealthy countries.
Certain U.S. states have laws that require manufacturers to be accountable for products that are difficult to manage, like electronics, car batteries, mattresses, and tires, as they are at the expiration date of their useful life.
In the present, Maine and Oregon have passed the first state law making the companies that produce consumer packaging, like cardboard boxes, plastic wrap, and food packaging, accountable for the disposal and recycling of their products, as well. This law of Maine is in effect from the middle of 2024, and Oregon’s law will take effect in mid-2025.
These strategies shift the burden of waste management from local municipalities and customers to the producers. As researchers studying the issue of waste and ways to cut it down, we are thrilled that states are taking steps to involve stakeholders, shift the burden in the direction of innovation, encourage creativity, and challenge extractive practices that are in place.
Reliable producers are held accountable.
This Maine law and Oregon laws are among the most recent implementations of a concept known as extended producer responsibility, also known as EPR. Swedish scientist Thomas Lindhqvist framed this concept in 1990 to reduce the environmental impact by requiring manufacturers to be accountable for the products through their entire lifecycles, particularly for recycling, takeback, and disposal.
Producers do not always return their products under EPR programs. They usually pay an intermediary agency or organization that uses the funds to cover the product as well as disposal and recycling costs. The idea of requiring producers to pay for these costs is designed to provide them with the incentive to modify their products to make them less inefficient.
The notion of extended producer accountability has led to laws governing the control of electronic waste, like old televisions, computers, and cell phones, across the European Union, China, and 25 U.S. states. Similar regulations have been enacted or suggested in countries such as Kenya, Nigeria, Chile, Argentina, and South Africa.