State lawmakers are in the thick of their legislative sessions as they consider recycling-related policies that could affect how materials are collected, processed or classified in the coming years.
This year, additional states are considering bills that would deem chemical or "advanced" recycling a manufacturing process instead of a solid waste management practice, while states like New York are sorting out the finer details of an extended producer responsibility (EPR) for packaging bill. Meanwhile, Oregon’s legislature recently sent a mattress EPR bill and a bottle bill update to the governor’s desk for signature.
Here’s a status report on some notable bills currently on the move. We know there’s also plenty of other legislation in the works. Let us know what you’re following at email@example.com.
Chemical recycling bills make headway in Mississippi and West Virginia
Mississippi is the latest state to pass legislation reclassifying chemical recycling as a manufacturing process rather than a form of solid waste management. Gov. Tate Reeves signed HB 1135 into law last week, and the measure is set to take effect July 1.
The Mississippi Manufacturers Association was among the supporters who said the bill would help increase recycling and boost the local economy. “This legislation was a priority issue for MMA as it creates a path for these innovative technologies to locate to Mississippi,” said MMA President and CEO John McKay in a news release from the American Chemistry Council. The ACC is a major backer of these reclassification bills.
West Virginia could soon become the 17th state to take this step. The legislature sent HB 4084 to Gov. Jim Justice last week for signature after the bill "sailed" through the state's House of Delegates and Senate, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
Proponents of these American Chemistry Council-backed bills say the reclassification recognizes the technology as economically feasible and necessary for diverting plastic waste from disposal. Opponents, including environmental groups like Break Free From Plastic, say the laws will allow companies to avoid key solid waste and environmental regulations.
Though the bills share similar language, each state includes some regulatory variations. South Carolina was the most recent state to pass a similar law when its governor signed a bill Jan. 27. South Carolina’s law states that advanced recycling is not incineration. As a condition of permitting, the law also calls for any advanced recycling facilities to carry a bond to meet "all reasonably foreseeable costs" related to possible environmental remediation, contamination, public health impacts, or "displacement and relocation of affected persons." Earlier versions of the bill did not include this provision, which was a concern for local environmentalists, The Post and Courier reported.
Other states with similar bills in the works include Missouri, where legislation passed the House of Representatives on March 10, and Alabama and Kentucky, whose bills were recently introduced and are being considered in committees.
Mattress EPR, bottle bill update headed to Oregon governor
Though EPR for packaging has gotten a lot of attention this year throughout the U.S., Oregon is poised to pass a new EPR program for mattresses if Gov. Kate Brown signs SB 1576. The mattress EPR bill is meant to reduce dumping and offer "free, convenient and accessible" collection sites in every county. Oregon last year became the second state to pass an EPR for packaging law.
Mattress producers would be required to join a stewardship organization, pay an annual fee and submit a mattress management plan for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s approval no later than Oct. 1, 2023. The stewardship organization would then have seven months after initial approval to implement the plan, according to the bill. Mattress producers would also need to come up with collection targets, recycling goals and public awareness plans.
The bill did not include information on state costs to address illegal dumping, but Metro Regional Illegal Dumping (RID) Patrol Services, which handles and tracks dumping in the greater Portland area, reported 742 littered or abandoned mattresses in the past year, according to its litter database.
When customers purchase a new mattress in Oregon, producers would be able to charge a flat fee for EPR program costs, though DEQ would approve the fee amount. Mattress producers also charge this fee in some other states with mattress EPR laws, such as California, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The Mattress Recycling Council (MRC) recently announced it has recycled its 10 millionth mattress through its programs in those states.
Meanwhile, wine sold in aluminum cans will become part of Oregon’s bottle bill if Gov. Brown signs SB 1520, which passed the state's House of Representatives last week. The measure — which only applies to canned wine, but not wine in glass bottles — would take effect July 1, 2025.
The state’s bottle bill already covers aluminum beer cans. State Sen. Michael Dembrow, the bill's primary sponsor, said wine in a can was "once an oddity," but is now a common product in stores, KLCC reported. Some legislators are in talks to potentially craft future language that would add glass wine bottles to the bottle bill, it said.
Many Oregonians already assume canned wine carries a deposit and can be redeemed, and "because the bottle bill covers almost all other beverages sold in cans, this exception creates confusion for consumers," said Anneliese Koehler, state and regional affairs advisor for Metro— Portland's regional government— in a statement.
Discussions over EPR for packaging in New York heating up
A high-profile EPR for packaging proposal in New York is gaining attention as the state gets closer to its April 1 budget approval deadline. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul included an EPR provision in her executive budget, calling for the program to start as early as 2026.
Meanwhile, the state's Senate and Assembly are preparing their own versions of the budget that could support or reject the proposal or call for amendments. It could also come up for debate sometime later in the legislative session, which ends in June.
Legislators may also decide to pursue EPR through the more traditional bill process. The governor’s EPR proposal has some similar traits as last year’s EPR for packaging bill led by state Sen. Todd Kaminski. Policy analysts expect some version of his bill, or perhaps a competing bill, could still be introduced this year.
Hochul’s proposal has gotten some high-profile backing in recent weeks, with New York City Department of Sanitation Commissioner Edward Grayson voicing strong support during a March 4 city council hearing. The EPR policy would help fund curbside recycling programs throughout the state, he said, at a time when the city is also facing potential budget cuts. “This program could bring as much as $100 million or more to New York City each year, which could free up funds for investment in recycling outreach and education, new waste diversion programs and other vital sanitation services,” Grayson said in a statement.
Other stakeholders are calling for numerous amendments to the proposal. The solid waste advisory boards of Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens believe the current proposal gives producers too much decision-making control that will "create structural asymmetries that place municipal and private recycling experts in New York City at a disadvantage in relation to producers." They prefer the Department of Environmental Conservation to monitor and regulate the program, with the producer responsibility organization mainly in charge of collecting and distributing fees.
The SWAB group also says current reimbursement language places too big a financial burden on municipalities, and language in other sections could hamper the state’s electronics EPR programs or complicate the existing bottle deposit law. It also calls for striking language related to advanced, chemical or "thermal" recycling, which it says should be considered in a separate bill, and advocates for new language that would call for eliminating toxic chemicals in packaging.
Over the weekend, the Senate released a budget resolution that includes an EPR reference but calls for substituting the governor's proposal with language from Sen. Kaminsky's previous bill. The Assembly's budget proposal does not appear to include any reference to EPR.
This story has been updated to include new developments from the New York state budget process as well as Mississippi's new chemical recycling law.