GCA Urges Exemptions for Greeting Cards in EPR Law Implementation

(Updated 4/25/2024)

Overview- Over the last several years, numerous states have considered enacting Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation for paper and plastic.  These laws transfer the responsibility for the costs of recycling and disposal of paper and plastic packaging – and in some cases, paper products, i.e., greeting cards – from communities to manufacturers and producers. 

To date, four states (California, Colorado, Maine, and Oregon) have enacted EPR for paper and plastic. Fortunately, California and Maine’s EPR laws do not include taxing paper products.  Unfortunately, Colorado and Oregon’s EPR laws include taxing both paper and plastic packaging and paper products, including greeting cards.  All four laws contain exemptions for small businesses with gross revenues of $5 million or less. 

As more states look to pass EPR legislation, GCA is engaging in advocacy to encourage exclusions for paper products and/or greeting cards specifically.  While state sales minimums may currently limit the financial impact to the majority of GCA members, the precedent these bills set is problematic, and experience shows that revenue minimums can be reduced in future years.  Moreover, the message that greeting cards should be treated the same as junk mail that immediately goes into the recycling bin is not desirable messaging for our industry.

EPR by State– The following graphic from the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) shows which states have enacted EPR laws and which states are expected to pass EPR in 2024.  We will update this map as the year unfolds and will be encouraging engagement from GCA members where and when it can be impactful. 

Enacted States

CA- SB54 passed and is 18 months into implementation.  There have been 10 workshops with one more scheduled for 12/14.  The needs assessment will begin soon; we expect completion in 2025.  Moving forward, expect to see a list confirming recyclable categories. The Circular Action Alliance has been selected as the Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO).  The PRO is responsible for administering the EPR program. There can only be one PRO for the first 10 years. Producers’ fees start upon approval of a plan or January 1, 2027, whichever is sooner. Action on definitions under the bill is due to begin on July 4, 2024.

CO- HB 22-1355 passed and the needs assessment is complete.  Three options were under consideration. The medium scenario has been approved. The advisory council has met 14 times.  Producers’ fees start no later than Jan. 1, 2026. Monthly updates are being provided to the CO advisory board.  https://cdphe.colorado.gov/hm/epr-advisory-board  They are expecting clarity in July on what fees for producers may look like.  They continue to work through the regulations for implementation.  A May 22 hearing will be the final opportunity for input. 

MELD 1503 passed and the implementation phase is underway. Producers’ fees start in 2026. There will be a hearing on March 7th.  The written comment deadline is March 17th.  They do expect a good amount of engagement.  They are pleased with the number of changes to the draft regulations so far.  There has been good progress.  The result is not perfect but it shows positive responses to inputs.   

OR- SB 582 passed and implementation is underway. In an attempt to exclude greeting cards from the program, GCA’s Vice President for Public Affairs delivered two statements to the Oregon Recycling System Advisory Council during their exclusionary request hearings.  Unfortunately, it is expected that greeting cards will remain in scope, despite the stated intentions of the legislation’s authors.  GCA’s statements will ideally set the stage for corrective legislation that carves out greeting cards in 2025. Producers’ fees start by July 1, 2025.  The Circular Action Alliance is currently the only candidate for the PRO. The process is delayed.  DEQ is indicating it will not approve the CAA application and is looking at another vendor and the application deadline has been extended.

Pending States

MN- SF 3561 and HF3577 are both before the Finance and, respectively Ways and Means.  There are also environmental omnibus bills that include EPR.  There are lots of differences between the two bills.  The Senate bill is much better and AF&PA is seeking to improve it to maximize difference to make the conference process harder and hopefully allow it to die.  Continued engagement is encouraged.  The session ends on May 20.  There is lots of enthusiasm to get something done.  There is a cap budget process to get the budget approved.  It is a jump ball as to the odds of passage. Lots of opponent voices have gone neutral as they have gotten favorable changes made.

HI- HB1688 has been introduced. It is a needs assessment-only bill. It has not seen movement in the last month.  The session ends on May 3, 2024 and observers are not anticipating any movement.

IL- IL Manufacturers Association is facilitating applications for the study group, which is supposed to be completed by January. Work has still not commenced.

MD- MD is commencing a needs assessment.  One of AF&PA’s staff has been selected to participate in the advisory council, which will be meeting for the first time this spring. No major activity has yet begun.

MA- In the second year of the 2-year legislative cycle.  At this point, they are required to give time to every single bill that is introduced.  None of the EPR bills tracked last year came out in the same form, they have been assembled into 2 aggregate bills.  One is a plastics ban and the other is EPR-focused.  SB570 is the plastics bill.  It combines 9 earlier bills.  HB4263 is the EPR bill.  It is a redraft of earlier bills and includes post-consumer provisions.  Beverage containers are exempted.  The next step is to refine the bills and to determine what could move forward but it is not a high-priority activity.

 MI- Continuing to hear that EPR introduction will occur.  Text has not been provided.  Proponents are not willing to share language but indications are that it will be modeled after CO.

NH- HB1630 was introduced earlier this year but after debate was deemed “inexpedient to legislate.”  This effectively kills the bill for 2024.

NJ- New EPR bill versions have been introduced.  The new bill numbers are SB 208; AB 2094.  They are packaging only.    Given the increase in the Democratic majority, it will be seen as an indication the public supports the environmental agenda.  NJ is the most likely state to pass EPR next year. The language calls for a 75% recycling rate requirement.  AF&PA will be engaged on it as well as the bottle bill. 

NY– Two bills are in process in New York. Both the AB 5233B; SB4246B were amended.  The assembly bill was on the agenda.  There was a robust discussion about advanced recycling.  It could be a poison pill.  There are many opponents of advanced recycling that could kill the EPR bill.  The Senate bill had a similar committee discussion on 2/27/2024.  There was an advocacy day in Albany.  A lot of supporters attended with a lot of press conferences.  The Senate sponsor may try to send it directly to the Senate floor.  There are many opponents to the bill active in NY.  But the bills are packaging only.  Governor Hochul is likely to veto the bill as currently drafted. 

As part of the needs assessment, have released phase I.  Asserts that more data is needed for EPR. Link: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/61dc6efed523942093c032af/t/661ea4849caa596171a952de/1713284228963/2024+New+York+Data+Gaps+Report+-+RRS+Apr+12+2024_FINAL.pdf  The budget process is consuming time and attention.  The legislature exceeded the April 1 deadline to complete the budget.  The legislature is on recess and will return on May 6th for the last session before the June adjournment leaving only 18 days remaining in the session.  Of three needs assessment states, NY is the only one that has commenced the work aside from CO that already completed it. (IL and MD are the other two.)  The industry ally in the legislature feels like she has done a lot for the industry and is not inclined to make further changes.   AF&PA has drafted a white paper on carbon black that will be submitted. 

RI- EPR bill introduced.  HB7023 is packaging only. The bill was voted to be held in committee so no further progress is expected.

VT- No movement on the EPR bill.  PFAS legislation is getting all the attention.  It has been broadened to mirror CT PFAS bills with bans in 2033.  

WA- As expected the Washington State Senate got off to an early start with two bills introduced.   The first by Rep. Liz Berry is quite onerous.  It is HB 2049 and would impose the most stringent EPR program that would include paper products as well as packaging.

The second is a more objective bill that would establish a needs assessment to look at the benefits and liabilities of an EPR program. It is HB1900 sponsored by Rep. Jake Fey. 

GCA has engaged with the sponsors of both bills to encourage broad exemptions for paper products or at a minimum for greeting cards.  That outreach was impactful leading to a positive response from the sponsor to consider changes and ultimately a large number of amendments that prevented the bill from being heard on the floor.  As such it is dead for this year but will likely be revisited in 2025.

Conversations are underway with Rep. Berry to get an understanding of her intentions for introduction next year.  She has indicated she will begin with the last version introduced last year but there are indications a bottle deposit system may be attached.  Berry will be holding stakeholder meetings in August and that would be a good time to reach out. 

Federal update- The Break Free from Classic Pollution Act has been reintroduced.  It includes a national EPR regime, however, it is not expected to advance any further this Congress.  There has been no additional activity.

You can review a full EPR Outlook Report for 2024 here.

You can view the recording of our January 10th webinar here.


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