- A high-profile EPR for packaging bill did not pass in New York before the end of the legislative session this weekend, despite last-minute updates meant to address stakeholder concerns.
- Lawmakers had touted the Packaging Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act bill as the most collaborative version of extended producer responsibility yet. They said the process would help municipalities that are currently overburdened with waste management costs, but numerous plastics industry groups and businesses criticized the proposal as “overly aggressive.”
- Meanwhile, a proposed bottle bill expansion that would have raised the deposit value to 10 cents and add more types of containers failed to make it out of committee. An EPR for mattresses bill passed the state Senate but did not come up for a vote in the Assembly before the end of the session.
Lawmakers in New York have worked for years to pass some version of EPR for packaging, but conflicting opinions on what the program should look like — along with competing versions — has usually played a role in stalling the process.
“It's no secret that in past years, there have been different philosophies about what this bill should look like. And that's okay. That's what democracy is all about,” said state Sen. Pete Harckham, a co-sponsor of S4246/ A5322, during a press conference just days before the end of the session.
Harckham, along with co-sponsor Assemblymember Deborah Glick, touted last-minute amendments as ways to address waste industry, plastics manufacturer and environmentalist concerns. That bill would have required producers to reduce packaging by 50% over 12 years. It also would have phased out chemicals such as PFAS and prohibit chemical recycling from being considered a recycling strategy for EPR purposes.
One notable amendment would have allowed the legislature to adjust the definition of recycling every three years, a response to some industry criticisms that chemical recycling was left out of the bill as a recycling method.
Another amendment would have protected existing waste management contracts from being nullified once the EPR program bill passed. “It’s not fair to penalize folks who have made significant investments based on their current contracts,” Harckham said during the press conference.
Other updates to the bill would have established just one producer responsibility organization for the first 10 years of the program and would have added a five-year “look-back period” on packaging reduction requirements meant to acknowledge previous work by companies.
Supporters included Beyond Plastics, which urged the Senate to bring the bill to a vote last week. The group sees a “strong” EPR plan as a tool to meaningfully reduce plastic pollution and help New York achieve environmental benchmarks set out in the state’s climate law. The Natural Resources Defense Council, New York League of Conservation Voters, Citizens Campaign for the Environment and other advocacy groups also supported the bill.
New York City Comptroller Brad Lander also supported the updated bill, saying in a letter that it would provide “much-needed taxpayer relief and funding for our recycling programs and infrastructure.”
But a coalition of 78 plastics industry groups, businesses and manufacturers opposed the bill, saying the amendments “were put forth without meaningful stakeholder input or robust detailed discussion of the complex provisions.”
The American Chemistry Council, AmSty, Berry Global, Braskem, the Business Council of New York State, the Consumer Technology Association, Plastics Industry Association and Sabic were among the opposition. The group took issue with the bill’s characterization of “toxic substances” in certain plastics, the exclusion of chemical recycling and the “overly aggressive and unworkable mandates and timelines” for provisions such as non-reusable packaging and postconsumer recycled content.
In a separate letter, the American Forest & Paper Association also opposed the bill as a “rushed, one-size-fits-all” policy.
The bill wasn’t the only EPR proposal brought forth this year in New York, but it captured the most attention. A similar EPR for packaging bill, S1064, did not gain traction. Gov. Kathy Hochul also included her own EPR for packaging program in a budget proposal, but it did not appear in the final budget. The National Waste and Recycling Association has said it does not believe any of the EPR policies proposed would meaningfully solve major recycling issues such as contamination or inadequate markets for recycled materials.
Though the bills failed to move forward this year, the issue could come up again sometime during the next legislative session that starts in January. “We live to fight another day,” said Judith Enck, president of Beyond Plastics, in an email.
A proposed bottle bill expansion, S237, also failed to move forward this year and was still stuck in committee at the end of the session. That bill, dubbed by supporters such as Beyond Plastics as the “bigger, better bottle bill,” called to increase the deposit for beverage containers to 10 cents and increase the handling fee to six cents. More types of containers would be accepted, such as wine, liquor and cider, as well as certain soft drinks, juice, coffee and tea. The original version would also have created postconsumer recycled content requirements for returnable containers, but an amended bill eliminated some of those requirements.
Meanwhile, an EPR for mattresses bill, S6419, passed the Senate but did not come up for a vote in the Assembly before the end of the session.