- A plan for an extended producer responsibility program for packaging was not included in New York’s final state budget, which passed this weekend, despite Gov. Kathy Hochul spearheading the initiative by naming it a "landmark proposal" and including it in her executive budget.
- Hochul first signaled her strong intent to enact EPR for packaging during her State of the State address in January. In the report, she called for New York to require “producers, not taxpayers, to cover the cost of recycling.” The EPR policy faced pushback from the Assembly and numerous groups who opposed the level of producer control in the plan or the method of writing the policy into the budget instead of pursuing it through legislation.
- Some supporters are now turning their efforts toward EPR bill S.1185C from state Sen. Todd Kaminsky, which Hochul used as a base for the EPR policy in the budget. Others say a forthcoming EPR bill from Assembly member Steve Englebright could propose a more comprehensive approach by also including language to reduce packaging and set minimum recycling standards.
New York's EPR process has been one of the most-watched in the country this year. Those familiar with the process believe EPR didn’t make it to the final budget because of a mix of pushback from numerous groups, the complexity of the EPR proposal offered and the fact that lawmakers were focused on more high-profile issues in the budget, such as bail reform. The Assembly did not include EPR in its version of the budget, saying the document should focus on finances, not policy.
The EPR proposal Hochul put forth in her executive budget, which would have started in 2026, called for producers to either comply with a new EPR law individually or join a producer responsibility organization. Producers would need to come up with the details of how to cover the costs of the program and reimburse municipalities or other participating service providers. An advisory committee of stakeholders would consult on more specific details of the plan.
Including EPR in the state budget “was a good opportunity and a missed opportunity,” said Patrick McClellan, policy director for the New York League of Conservation Voters, which supported the governor’s proposal. Other major supporters included The Recycling Partnership, which lobbied for the effort throughout the process, the Times-Union reported.
New York City Department of Sanitation Commissioner Edward Grayson and the New York City Council were among the other high-profile supporters.
However, several other environmental and municipal groups took issue with the way the EPR plan was set up. In a letter to the state Senate, Beyond Plastics and numerous other groups called it a “flawed” bill that would not reduce single-use plastics and would allow too much industry self-regulation.
Solid waste advisory boards for the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens voiced similar concerns that the bill’s producer responsibility organization model gave too much power to large corporations, among other issues. It would have also allowed chemical recycling, said Matthew Civello, chair of the Manhattan SWAB — a process he said “needs to be proven as a real technology at scale," adding, "that hasn’t been done yet, and there’s a lot of skepticism about it.”
The SWAB groups see EPR as an important and necessary policy for New York, but they believe the failure of this particular version to make it to the budget “opens the door for perhaps a better bill that would be more beneficial to the city and the state,” Civello said.
New York has numerous groups that support EPR but differ over which model is right for the state. Time is running short to pass legislation before the end of the session on June 2, McClellan said.
“We’re going to keep pushing for EPR in standalone legislation, but the clock is ticking,” he said. “It’s also an election year, members are having June primaries, and the worry is that members will want to spend more time in their districts and less time in the weeds in Albany on policy.”
One possibility is Kaminsky's bill, which Hochul used as a base for the EPR policy in her budget. Kaminsky first introduced the bill last year, but it was not able to gather broad enough support. Under this bill, producers would be required to finance the recycling of various packaging materials but would have been able to decide how best to do that, either on their own or as part of a producer responsibility organization.
NYLCV supports Kaminsky’s bill, calling it a “strong proposal,” though McClellan says the group would make some amendments, such as strengthening language on recycled content standards and on banning toxic chemicals in packaging. Kaminsky is not running for reelection, which could mean he will devote more time to moving the bill out of committee, McClellan said.
Other EPR supporters, such as Beyond Plastics and NYPIRG, say they will champion the yet-to-be-introduced bill from Englebright, which they anticipate will include language meant to set mandatory standards for waste reduction and recycling. Judith Enck, president of Beyond Plastics, said the bill is coming "soon." A call made to Englebright's office was not returned as of press time.
Civello said the SWAB groups have not seen a draft of Englebright’s bill, but they hope that its introduction will help keep the momentum going for enacting a strong EPR bill that will work for the whole state. “There’s a lot of support for EPR. A lot of people want it,” Civello said. “It’s incumbent on the Assembly to introduce something that will keep it going, and hopefully it’s something that we can get behind and feel comfortable with, even if it doesn't make it this session.”
If either bill passes, it would be one of the biggest EPR policy changes in the country this year. Maine and Oregon passed EPR for packaging laws last year, but no other states have finalized such legislation yet in 2022.
Hochul's executive budget also called for eliminating PFAS in food packaging by Dec. 31 this year and in other packaging by Dec. 31, 2024, in amounts exceeding 100 parts per million by weight. That provision was not included in the final budget bill containing most of the state's environmental efforts.