Legislation + Regulation

Changes Coming for Product Packaging

By Michael Weems, VP of Public Policy, American Lighting Association (ALA)

The following is reprinted with the permission of ALA.

The concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws originated out of the European Union. Since then, EPR laws have flourished worldwide, including in the United States and Canada. The initial wave of EPR laws focused on electronics and battery waste, but recent developments have seen an increased focus on single-use plastics. These governmental actions impact how lighting and ceiling fan products are safely and securely packaged.

In the U.S., plastics laws and regulations are taking effect. So far, six states have enacted EPR or packaging laws (other states are actively working to advance their own EPR bills). They are:

  • Maine – July 2021
  • Oregon – August 2021
  • Washington – 2021
  • New Jersey – 2021
  • Colorado – June 2022
  • California – June 2022

While the various laws are similar, much of the recent attention has been paid to California’s Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act or SB 54. SB 54 is California’s latest effort to address the issues of recycling and climate change as it seeks to achieve its goal of building a circular economy. SB 54 is intended to reduce packaging and packaging waste in accordance with those goals.

Foremost, the law shifts the burden of responsibility away from the consumer and on to the producer. To meet the new obligations of implementing their EPR programs, producers are being forced to collectively pay $5 billion over 10 years to create a Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO). In order to avoid mass confusion,Circular Action Alliance (CAA) was approved in January 2024 by CalRecycle to be the statewide PRO. (CAA is also the statewide PRO in Colorado.) CAA will use the funds to cut plastic pollution and support California communities hurt most by the impacts of plastic waste.

Furthermore, the law establishes several targeted mandates for plastic use, reduction and recycling. Specifically, the law requires that by 2032:

  • 100% of single-use packaging shall be recyclable or compostable
  • 65% of single-use plastic packaging must be recycled
  • 25% reduction in single-use plastic packaging

Lastly, SB 54 includes a structured timeline of required actions and reporting. The law separates covered materials into two basic categories: single-use packaging and single-use plastic foodware. However, the law instructs CalRecycle, by July 1, 2024, to publish a comprehensive list that identifies additional covered categories that are defined by the material type and form. The final list of covered categories will fall into one of five classes:

  • Glass and Ceramic
  • Metal
  • Paper and Fiber
  • Plastic
  • Wood and Other Organics

After CalRecycle publishes the covered materials list and beginning in 2025, producers will be required to submit annual reporting on compostability and recyclability. In 2026, producers must begin reporting recycling rates for each covered material category.

In Canada, five provinces have enacted EPR programs (New Brunswick is actively working to develop its own EPR program). They are:

  • British Columbia
  • Saskatchewan
  • Manitoba
  • Ontario
  • Québec

Similar to California, the Government of Canada is moving Canadians toward a circular economy and has set a 2030 goal of zero plastic waste. To achieve that goal, the Department of the Environment has put forth a proposal to address plastic products and materials.

The notice of intent proposes a Federal Plastics Registry for plastic products manufactured, imported and sold in Canada, thus establishing Canada’s EPR. Like the other efforts, this proposal seeks to improve waste reduction and recycling activities by extending a producer’s physical and financial responsibility for a product to the post-consumer stage of its lifecycle. Reporting under this proposal could begin as early as 2024, but for certain in 2025 and 2026.

The main point of concern is how the proposal assigns producer responsibilities. The proposal defines a producer as a brand owner who resides in Canada. If the brand owner is not a resident, the definition then spins out of control going down layer by layer of the supply chain until it finds an entity in Canada to hold responsible. For ALA, this could put manufacturers’ representatives or even showrooms on the hook.

Lastly, the Canadian proposal includes primary, secondary and tertiary packaging products and is enforceable by way of the standard fines, as well as possible imprisonment.

ALA recently joined multi-industry comments regarding the Canadian proposal. The final action is expected to be published before the end of the year.

In conclusion, members need to ensure they are taking the appropriate steps to manage their EPR compliance.

 Special thanks to Michael Weems for permission to reprint this ALA Public Policy Update.

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