EPR Gains Momentum with Minnesota’s New Law

The new extended producer responsibility framework makes brand owners and other ‘producers’ responsible for packaging waste reduction in the state.

Kate Bertrand Connolly, Freelance Writer

June 5, 2024

4 Min Read
Curbside recycling
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At a Glance

  • Producers will bear 90% of the state’s recycling costs by 2031.
  • Waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and composting will be the focus.
  • FPA and several other industry groups favor the new EPR program.

Minnesota has joined a select group of states in making extended producer responsibility (EPR) the law of the land. The state’s new EPR framework was established when Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed his state’s Environment and Natural Resources Supplemental Budget Bill into law on May 21, 2024.

The Packaging Waste and Cost Reduction Act, which spells out Minnesota’s new EPR program, is part of the budget bill. The Act includes an EPR implementation timeline and requirements for producers, defined as brand owners, packaging manufacturers, and/or distributors of packaged goods.

The legislation states: “Producers must implement and finance a statewide program for packaging and paper products … that encourages redesign to reduce the environmental impacts and human health impacts” of waste. The program aims to reduce waste through activities such as reuse, recycling, and composting; and provides for collection, transportation, and processing of the waste.

Packaging for certain critical-goods categories is exempt from Minnesota’s EPR program. Exemptions include infant formula, “medical food,” fortified oral nutritional supplements (in some cases), and medical equipment and devices and their associated components and consumables.

Minnesota producers must create a nonprofit producer responsibility organization (PRO) to implement the new EPR program. They are tasked with appointing a PRO by January 1, 2025, and the PRO must register with the commissioner of the state’s Pollution Control Agency by July 1, 2026.

“Across Minnesota, we are inundated with packaging, from our doorsteps to store shelves. Packaging waste and printed paper now account for 40% of our garbage,” said Minnesota State Representative Sydney Jordan in a statement released after the state’s House passed the budget bill.

Jordan co-authored the Packaging Waste and Cost Reduction Act with Minnesota State Senator Kelly Morrison.

“The burden of managing this ever-growing deluge of packaging waste currently falls on local governments — and taxpayers. Today’s bill takes steps to ensure the producers of this waste are paying their fair share,” Jordan said.

Minnesota’s new law does not make producers solely responsible for recycling costs, but over time producers will shoulder most of the expense. Producers will be required to pay 50% of net recycling cost by February 1, 2029; 75% by February 1, 2030; and 90% by February 1, 2031, and each year thereafter.

Industry groups weigh in.

Several industry and environmental groups have come out in favor of Minnesota’s new EPR law, including the American Beverage Association, AMERIPEN, the Consumer Brands Association, the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA), and the World Wildlife Fund.

FPA had initially opposed the legislation because it included arbitrary recycling goals, lacked critical-goods exemptions, and put the total cost of the EPR program on producers. However, after the state’s legislature revised the bill’s language to address these issues, FPA came out in favor of it.

The American Beverage Association (ABA) applauded the state’s legislators “for enacting well-designed Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation, helping set a strong standard for effective collection systems,” said ABA president and CEO Kevin Keane in a statement after the law’s passage. “This bold solution will collect more recyclable materials, create local jobs, and help protect the environment without burdening Minnesota residents.”

Keane added, “The Minnesota EPR legislation is modeled after successful EPR programs that create a circular system for packaging. These systems ensure producers fund and operate the system and have access to their recovered materials so they can be turned into new products. They also provide fair and appropriate government oversight and accountability. Importantly, this producer-led system will be financially sustainable and convenient for Minnesotans.”

But not everyone is a fan of the new legislation. Shortly before Walz signed the budget bill into law, American Forest & Paper Association president and CEO Heidi Brock released a statement raising concerns about the EPR program and urging Walz to veto.

“We are disappointed in the Minnesota State Legislature’s decision to include EPR language in [budget bill] HF 3911. Paper is one of the most widely recycled materials in the US, driven by market-based solutions and billions of dollars in investments advancing the best use of recycled paper in our products,” Brock stated.

“Our industry provides a recycling model to emulate rather than burden with untested systems that limit future investment. HF 3911 is not the appropriate vehicle for legislation that ultimately punishes responsible producers,” she added.

Minnesota is the fifth state to implement EPR laws for packaging, joining California, Colorado, Oregon, and Maine. Other states with pending EPR legislation include Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York.

About the Author(s)

Kate Bertrand Connolly

Freelance Writer

Kate Bertrand Connolly has been covering innovations, trends, and technologies in packaging, branding, and business since 1981.

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