Senators weigh ‘polluter pays’ policies for packaging

By Ellie Borst | 03/04/2024 06:36 AM EST

The Environment and Public Works Committee has scheduled a hearing on extended producer responsibility.

Plastic waste and foam food packaging.

Plastic waste and foam food packaging rests on rocks as storm water runoff from a winter storm flows from Ballona Creek into the Pacific Ocean in Los Angeles County, California. Patrick Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Senators will consider ideas to put companies on the hook for the packaging trash they create at an Environment and Public Works Committee hearing this week.

As plastic pollution continues to proliferate, some lawmakers are favoring legislation for extended producer responsibility — known as EPR — which would hold manufacturers and distributors responsible for what happens to packaging products.

Proponents say EPR could subsidize infrastructure changes necessary for improving the nation’s municipal solid waste recycling rate, which EPA estimates is about 32 percent for the approximate 94 million tons of waste produced each year.


Four states — California, Colorado, Maine and Oregon — have passed EPR for packaging legislation, but their respective enforcement programs are still taking shape.