2021 saw two states adopt a new plastic packaging levy program, a proposal that will be debated in more state capitals in 2022

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In 2021, Maine and Oregon became the first states to adopt a new program called Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for plastic packaging. State lawmakers who have yet to hear about the EPR will likely do so in the future, as supporters of the policy are now buying it in other state capitals. These first EPR programs for plastics will assess and levy a fee on products that use plastic packaging, with the goal of reducing plastic use, encouraging the use of recyclable plastic, and funding new technologies for recycling. recycling.

“Today, these programs are in place across the European Union and in five Canadian provinces, as well as in Australia, Africa and South America. Noted an August article in Governor magazine on the progress of EPR proposals in the United States “Mechanisms vary, but the basic concept is that companies that sell products pay fees that help cover the cost of recycling of packaging, shifting the burden from taxpayers and government to those who are sending these materials to market.

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Supporters of the EPR market the policy as a way to charge producers for the cost of recycling, but critics of the EPR argue that the costs are actually borne by consumers in the form of inflated prices. Advocates of the EPR, meanwhile, are now pushing for its passage in more states in 2022 and they are backed by a well-funded coalition that has already succeeded in getting EPR legislation pre-tabled for them. legislative sessions of the States of 2022.

It appears, however, that some proponents of EPR are urging lawmakers in other states to introduce the Maine EPR Invoice almost word for word. This, it seems, is the most plausible explanation for how a Maine-specific exemption from EPR fees for frozen wild blueberries was incorporated into a bill recently introduced in the House of Representatives of the ‘Illinois.

First, a bit of background: Maine lawmakers, on their way to becoming the first state to pass EPR legislation in the summer of 2021, added a provision to the bill that exempts a revered Maine industry: blueberries. Thanks to this exemption, which was included in the final version of the bill signed Enacted by Governor Janet Mills (D) on July 12, frozen wild blueberries are exempt from the fees that Maine’s new EPR program will apply to other products sold in plastic packaging.

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Given the importance of the blueberry industry in Maine, it’s no surprise that the blueberry exemption was added to Maine’s EPR bill. What is surprising is to see the same exclusion of Maine blueberries appear in an Illinois EPR bill that was recently tabled by Rep. Dagmara “Dee” Avelar (D).

Representative Avelar presented her EPR bill, House Bill 4258, at Illinois House on December 6. As with the Maine bill, Representative Avelar’s bill exempts perishable food producers from EPR fees. However, in the section of the bill that includes the exemption for perishables, the Illinois bill, like the Maine bill passed last summer, makes it clear that frozen food products are not. not considered exempt perishable products, but with one exception: blueberries.

The language of Avelar’s representative Invoice states that perishable foods exempt from the REP charge shall “not include such foods which are sold, offered for sale or distributed for sale frozen, with the exception of frozen wild blueberries.” This blueberry exemption in the Illinois bill is exactly the same provision, word for word, as found in the Maine bill.

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When contacted for an explanation of the rationale behind including the Maine blueberry EPR exemption in Illinois law, Representative Avelar responded by email that “the frozen wild blueberry exemption exists because wild blueberries are highly perishable and must be frozen within 24 hours of harvest. “When asked why other highly perishable products that must be frozen within 24 hours of harvest are not also exempted in her bill, Representative Avelar declined to answer.

A plausible explanation for how a loophole on frozen wild blueberries was built into Representative Avelar’s bill is that she simply filed the bill from Maine to Illinois, only changing the names of states and not much else. Democrats and Progressives have long attacked the formulation of model state legislation by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and others as an inherently harmful activity. Still, it makes sense that, if a policy proves successful in one or more states, it would be in the interest of carrying this good idea to other states. Perhaps if progressives had their own version of the CEFTA or did not dismiss the concept of model legislation as inherently malicious, they might have a model EPR bill that state legislators across the country can work on. and customizing so that state-specific provisions aren’t found in legislation introduced in another, as we’re seeing with the Maine blueberry loophole popping up in Illinois.

Lawmakers in more states, including some of the most populous, will seek to join Oregon and Maine in passing EPR legislation in 2022. “If followed by the success of bills similar to New York and California, the size of these markets could prompt packaging reform, regardless of the number of other bills that followed, ” Noted Governance Magazine on the potential for adoption of other EPR bills in the near future and its implications. “A federal bill, the Plastic pollution law, could bring the EPR in all states.

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EPR supporters may believe they have the momentum after their 2021 victories in Maine and Oregon, but they face headwinds trying to export EPR programs to more states. Inflation is already causing hardship for many households. REP programs further inflate the cost of groceries and other essentials, as the cost of REP fees is ultimately passed on to consumers. Many lawmakers will be reluctant to vote for a bill that can rightly be described as creating an effective regressive tax hike, especially in an election year where high inflation is a major problem.

The other challenge that EPR promoters face is that they are trying to solve a problem that is already solved without EPR or some other new program. “Plastic waste is an unfortunate by-product of modern life. Fortunately, we are improving to deal with it ”, Remarks the Human Progress project of the Cato Institute. “If historical trends continue, almost all plastic waste will either be incinerated or recycled by 2050.”

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What lobbyists for the EPR face is analogous to the challenge faced by supporters of the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI), the regional cap-and-trade program that was recently aborted after the Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker (R), the main champion of the program as governor of the only state fully committed to the device, got out. Opponents of TCI have pointed out that this will result in an effective regressive tax increase through gasoline price inflation and inflict this economic pain for no reason, since TCI supporters themselves recognize that emissions are expected to decrease even without the new cap and trade program. Likewise, opponents of EPR programs point out that they are inflating the cost of groceries and other essentials, all to solve a problem for which solutions are already underway.

In addition to legislation enacted in Maine and Oregon, lawmakers in six other states – California, New York, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and Hawaii – have introduced EPR legislation. Unlike Representative Avelar’s Bill in Illinois, none of the other EPR bills contain the frozen blueberry exemption. This lends even more credence to the theory that it is about lazy legislating, and not to the unexpected influence of Big Blueberry in the Illinois State House, which explains the emergence of the exemption of Maine blueberries in Springfield. REP proposals appear to be more common in state legislatures in the months and years to come, as the number of PWR bills tabled is expected to increase. 2022 will show whether EPR supporters can build on their victories in 2021, or whether resistance to these proposals is able to slow the EPR’s momentum and turn the tide.



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