Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation holds meat and poultry manufacturers responsible for packaging recycling and recovery through fees and materials management.

“These are policies and programs designed to shift some level of economic burden of managing products at end of life from local government and taxpayers to product producers,” Dan Felton, executive director of AMERIPEN, explained during Processor Responsibilities in Recyclable Packaging: What is EPR?.

Depending on how an EPR program is managed, producers may be required to take partial or even full financial and physical responsibility of the collection, recycling and disposal of a product’s end of life. These fees could go to infrastructure improvements to increase recycling efforts, sustainable innovation R&D, consumer education and more.

Gaining support in the U.S.

EPR policies have already been implemented in several provinces in Canada and across the EU and are gaining support in the U.S. 

Ten U.S. states – including California, Hawaii, New York and Washington – introduced packaging producer responsibilities laws this year, while a Maine law went into effect in July. At the Federal level, there are two bills containing packaging producer responsibility language currently under discussion.

There are several factors driving interest in EPR policies in the U.S., including an increased consumer perception of packaging as waste, legislation in countries like China against excess packaging, state and local budget constraints and an increased focus on packaging legislation at the state and federal level over the past few years.

“We want these programs to support the future of packaging, not only what is needed today,” Felton added. “There is obviously a lot of focus today on plastics, but we believe that any programs that move forward here in the U.S. should cover all types of packaging materials.”

The bottom line

Finding a way to reduce plastic packaging waste is a hot topic with consumers. 

A growing number of consumers are taking steps to curtail the amount of single-use plastic in their lives because of sustainability and climate change concerns. In a 2019 survey from Innova Market Insights, about half of those surveyed indicated they would pay more for products from companies dedicated to reducing plastic waste.

Several poultry companies have already begun the transition toward recyclable packaging and the industry needs to continue to direct efforts toward the development of a more sustainable product packaging to meet consumer demand and to meet state and federal guidelines..

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