Brooke Lierman
Comptroller | Baltimore, MD

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for Packaging

Idea Category: Climate Change


 Based on surveys submitted by each County in Maryland, the state is experiencing a waste crisis and local governments are spending an unstainable portion of their budgets to manage this waste.

When China and other countries restricted plastic imports, the market for materials like paper and plastics shrunk overnight. This has resulted in higher costs for local governments: Between 2017 and 2019, the value of recyclables has declined by an average of 41%. A market where local governments and taxpayers bear all of the cost of managing recycling and waste from materials like plastic and paper packaging is unsustainable.

Producers do not consider the cost of their packaging choice on local governments, and seemingly simple shifts in material choice can result in huge costs to local governments and their recycling programs. Local governments are spending too much money trying to clean up a mess they did not make. 


EPR creates economic incentives for producers to consider the impact of their packaging choices on the environment and local governments. Producers are required to form a “product stewardship organization,” pay fees* based on the various characteristics of their packaging, and use funds collected for four purposes. 1) To reimburse local governments for costs associated with the collection, transportation, sorting, and recycling of post-consumer packaging waste. 2) To create grant programs for local governments that want to modernize their recycling systems or develop reuse infrastructure. 3) To fund a needs assessment to evaluate the current capacity related to, need for, and associated costs of recycling, composting, and reuse infrastructure. 4) Staff and operation costs associated with running the Product Stewardship Organization.

*Fees must be structured in a way that rewards/ incentivizes packaging that is readily recyclable or reusable and disincentivizes packaging that is difficult, costly, or impossible to recycle.

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