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Maryland EPR for packaging proposal, now a study bill, sent to governor for signature

Nov 17, 2023Nov 17, 2023

The bill had already undergone major changes requiring an in-depth needs assessment before establishing a program, but this speeds up key timelines and calls for a single PRO.

Maryland's extended producer responsibility for packaging bill, SB 222, is headed to Gov. Wes Moore's desk. The final bill sets a sped-up timeline for a statewide needs assessment, but does not actually implement main details of an EPR program.

The bill had already undergone numerous major amendments last week to delete most EPR program details and make it a study bill. It underwent further changes in a conference committee hours before the end of the session on April 10.

The final amendments still call for the state to undergo a needs assessment, but now calls for it to be complete by July 30, 2024. That assessment, conducted by an independent consultant, must include numerous metrics and details of how Maryland's waste and recycling systems currently operate. Older versions of the bill would have set the assessment deadline of April 1, 2025.

The version sent to the governor also adds a line calling for the Maryland Department of the Environment to approve a single producer responsibility organization by Oct. 1, 2023.

The bill still calls for an advisory council to report findings and recommendations on a proposed EPR plan to the governor, but that deadline is now Dec. 1, 2024 — a full year earlier than in the previous version of the bill. The advisory council will have up to 21 members, including haulers, processors and composters from both the public and private sectors, representatives from local government agencies, PROs and the consumer goods sector.

It's unclear what the next steps or timeline could be after the advisory council presents its findings.

Maryland has tried for several years to pass an EPR for packaging bill, and SB 222 represents the first step in implementing such a program even though the version sent to the governor has been stripped of most of the original bill's program details.

Previous versions had also called for producers to set a 25% packaging reduction requirement, and the bill at one point would have allowed the PRO to create a beverage container deposit program alongside the EPR program. The needs assessment was also in previous versions of the bill.

Proponents of the needs assessment said Maryland must first have a clear picture of its recycling and waste management systems before trying to write detailed EPR rules.

Final amendments preserved the needs assessment's lengthy requirements. The assessment will look at details on state waste and recycling infrastructure and capacity, as well as key costs and revenues. It must also determine disposal and recycling methods by material type and amount, as well as estimate how many materials are currently not being recycled. It also calls for an assessment of state organics recycling capacity, reuse opportunities, recycling education programs, employment opportunities and ideas for making recycling systems more equitable for underserved residents.

The needs assessment must also include an analysis of how an EPR program could impact the environment and how other EPR programs around the world could offer insight or best practices.

Four states have already passed a packaging EPR bill: Maine, Oregon, Colorado and California. Connecticut is working on a waste bill that includes EPR for packaging provisions, but that bill would pause EPR plans until four other states — at least one of which borders Connecticut — implement their own packaging EPR policies.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with details about the advisory council included in a final version of this bill that was posted after publication.