California’s new SB-54 Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) bill has been signed into law. With its passing, the bill has sparked a conversation about what EPR bills are and what makes them successful.
The SB-54 bill in California focuses primarily on plastic waste, but other materials that prove to be hazardous to the planet or human health will be seen in future EPR bills.
We’re breaking down EPR bills and what materials should be included in future legislation.
What is An EPR Bill?
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a legal approach used to place financial or physical responsibility on producers or companies for post-consumer products. Producers are incentivized through EPR bills and other legislations to prevent waste or chemicals at the source.
Municipalities are often overwhelmed with obstacles for waste management, be it recycling operations, composting sites, incinerators, or other systems. EPR bills, if passed, set guidelines and financial objectives for producers. Some EPR bills are designed to push producers to change their packaging and/or create products with easier compostability or recyclability.
Citizens are often taxed for the disposal mechanisms needed to mitigate waste. EPR bills shift that financial responsibility onto the producers.
How Do EPR Bills Work?
EPR bills function by setting goals or guidelines for producers to reach by certain dates. EPR bills can be passed on national or state levels and are becoming more relevant in legislative processes.
Producers must adhere to the guidelines set in EPR bills, which vary and are dependent on goals written by those constructing the bill. Should an EPR bill pass, producers who do not adhere to the rules can be subjected to major fines or disadvantages compared to those adhering to the legislation.
Materials For Future EPR Bills
While some states do include a few of the following materials in EPR legislation, many states do not. Sixteen states have never created EPR policies. This list of materials should be considered for future EPR rules due to their burden on the environment and human health.
Cigarettes are one of the most littered pieces of post-consumer waste. Billions of cigarette ends are estimated to be polluting streets, beaches, and water bodies across the globe. Cigarettes are not only toxic to human health when smoking, but can cause health concerns long after they are disposed of.
Cigarette ends contain chemical agents, heavy metals, and other toxins that pollute air and water quality. Future EPR bills should focus on removing cigarette ends from the environment while requiring cigarette companies to foot the bill.
Paint should never be discarded in regular waste cans. Paint contains dyes and chemicals that can leach into the environment and pollute water, soils, and natural areas. Some municipalities host events or drives to take back household chemicals that should not be disposed of normally. However, EPR bills could be helpful to create more efficient and accessible paint disposal facilities across the country.
Carpets are typically made from synthetic fibers like acrylic and polyester. These compounds are made from plastics and release microfibers into the air. Carpets should never be disposed of with food and other wastes.
Some third-party companies will recycle your carpeting for a fee. However, EPR bills could require carpeting producers to fund accessible carpet recycling or disposal options across the country. Doing so could help protect the environment and human health from microplastic pollution.
Medications and other pharmaceutical products like syringes are causing human health and environmental concerns. Medications should never be flushed or rinsed down drains, as water treatment facilities are not equipped to filter them out of tap water.
Pharmaceutical companies could be mandated under EPR bills to create a circular waste system for medications and other medical products that is tax-free for citizens.
Electronic waste is arguably one of the most regulated on our list. Many municipalities and recycling centers will take electronic waste. However, responsibility by electronic producers remains underwhelming.
Electronics contain heavy metals and chemical agents that are toxic to soils, water bodies, and human health when left to degrade in the environment. Future EPR bills should focus on producer responsibility and level up the reclamation of electronic wastes to create a more circular electronic market.
EPR bills stand for Extended Producer Responsibility bills.
Future EPR bills should include policies against cigarettes, paint, carpeting, pharmaceuticals, and electronics.
EPR bills shift the responsibility of post-consumer waste from citizens back to the producers.