What is EPR? In brief, EPR, also known as Product Stewardship, places responsibility for end-of-life product management on producers and other companies involved in the product chain while encouraging design changes that make products more recyclable.
Sounds good, but what impact would EPR have on Maryland’s local governments, residential recycling programs and our recycling industry?
On February 8, we explored the ins and outs of EPR as well as recently introduced legislation designed to implement EPR for packaging and paper in Maryland. We heard from the bill’s sponsor, Maryland Delegate Brooke Lierman, District 46, along with a panel of industry professionals who addressed questions like …
- Will it cover a local government’s recycling costs?
- What impact will it have on Maryland’s MRFs?
- Will it lead to more easily recyclable packaging and less packaging?
- What impact will it have on your recycling programs?
EPR shifts the costs and responsibility of waste management and recycling from taxpayers and local governments to producers. Existing EPR programs function as “take-back programs” setup by the producers.
HB 36 will require producers doing business in Maryland to establish a product stewardship plan, either individually or via a product stewardship organization, and submit the plan to MDE within a certain timeframe. The Bill retains municipal waste and recycling systems but asks producers to contribute financially to transportation and sorting. The program includes packaging, containers and paper products (no books).
Among the many concerns raised is the complicated issue of “who pays” and “how they pay” as recycling varies widely across Maryland. For example, programs may be supported through residential taxes, landfill fees, subscription hauler fees, etc. Also, the collection and processing of these materials creates an additional level of complexity, i.e., single stream vs dual stream. So, how will the reimbursement process work in these different scenarios, and how will this affect those that use private haulers?
Another concern is that potential understaffing and/or insufficient expertise in dealing in this type of program at MDE, who would be responsible for monitoring the program, could cause a logjam in the process.
Update: MRN has taken no position on HB 36 at this time. Among other concerns is that “the bill, as written, needs to take into consideration the incredible diversity of how recycling and solid waste are paid for and managed by Maryland’s counties and municipalities and how those local government responsibilities will continue after enactment.” Read MRN’s full statement here.
You can view all relevant recycling legislation MRN is following here.