The Urgent Countdown to Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) in the US

Posted on 
April 13, 2022
Katie Exum
Project Success Manager, Specright
The 2024 Consumer Sustainability Report

UPDATED JUNE 6, 2024 -- California's Governor Gavin Newsom has signed the United States’ most comprehensive paper products and plastic EPR bill to date. The landmark legislation will create an EPR program for printed and plastic packaging, require certain reductions and eliminations in single-use plastic packaging material, promote reuse and refill systems, and implement eco-modulated fees and environmental justice provisions. California is now the fourth state to pass some form of EPR for packaging, following Colorado, Maine, and Oregon. The California EPR legislation is set to take effect Jan. 1, 2027. Additionally, Minnesota legislature passed EPR framework on May 21st, 2024, making it the 5th state to pass EPR legislation. The bill holds packaging producers resonsible for their produced waste and uses incentives to try and increase the use of recycled content.


UK food and beverage manufacturers are exhaling a sigh of relief. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws intended to go into effect later this year, have been delayed until 2024. However, that relief will be short-lived , as the clock to ramp up EPR accountability is mounting from many places, causing significant implications for product and packaging professionals. EPR is just one of the many growing regulations related to sustainability, and despite the delay, it’s critical that companies act now to prepare. In this post, we’ll explore the basics of EPR and help you prepare to build EPR strategies that scale.

What is Extended Producer Responsibility?

In its simplest form, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), is a set of regulations designed to incentivize manufacturers to make more sustainable products and packaging decisions, keeping waste out of landfills. They place the responsibility for the environmental impacts of products on producers (A.K.A. manufacturers) not just at the point of manufacturing, but for the entirety of the product life cycle.The laws and regulations governing each region’s EPR policy approach are varied and growing, but they all share a common characteristic.

They create a truly circular economy.

The Ellen Macarthur Foundation defines a circular economy as “a systems solution framework that tackles global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution…. In our current economy, we take materials from the Earth, make products from them, and eventually throw them away as waste – the process is linear. In a circular economy, by contrast, we stop waste being produced in the first place.” One well-established  example of EPR is the bottle deposit paid on plastic beverage containers . These laws have been in place for many years and have proven to offer environmental protection. According to the UK Parliamentary  Environmental Audit Committee,  “Deposit Return Schemes are currently in operation in around 40 countries worldwide as well as 21 US States. Typically, countries with Deposit Return schemes for plastic bottles achieve recycling rates of approximately 80 – 95%.”It's been a proven way to increase recycling of plastic materials. But recycling materials isn’t the only outcome EPR is affecting. EPR regulations typically spur the creation of EPR systems that address three factors:

  • Reduction of material used in the production and packaging of goods. (using fewer materials)
  • Reduce the environmental impact. (using less toxic packaging materials)
  • Keep materials out of landfills. Plan for a product’s end-of-life, with take-back and recycling programs to repurpose materials.

For product and packaging professionals, there are significant opportunities to optimize across all three of these areas.  

Extended Producer Responsibility Regulations by State

California EPR Regulations

In Statute: January 2024
Producers Report: August 2025
Producers Fees Released: April 2026
First Fee Invoice Released: January 2027

Colorado EPR Regulations

In Statute: July 2025
Producers Report: August 2025
Producers Fees Released: October 2025
First Fee Invoice Released: January 2026

Maine EPR Regulations

In Statute: Summer 2024
Producers Report: Early 2026
Producers Fees Released: 2027

Oregon EPR Regulations

In Statute: July 2025
Producers Report: March 2025
Producers Fees Released: July 2025
First Fee Invoice Released: July 2025

EPR doesn’t offer easy wins

There are significant consumer and regulatory pressures to adopt EPR, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy win. Three factors make realizing the vision of EPR a challenge.

1. The local nature of EPR mandates makes compliance a challenge. Each regulation is defined by local governments and has its own guidelines, incentives and penalties.

2. The spirit of EPR is to take the burden off consumers for reducing the environmental footprint of product production and use. However, the consumer is still part of the process. Elements of Extended Producer Responsibility programs  have to make it easy for consumers to comply with end-of-life management  take-back/reuse efforts.

3. The transition to less wasteful processes generally comes at a significant cost to producers who have to change processes, reconfigure equipment, and explore new materials.  For example, in the UK new extended producer responsibility laws are expected to cost the food and drink industry 1.7 billion pounds (2.2 billion US Dollars).

Regulatory pressure is mounting

Challenges aside, producers must act – and fast.  Almost 70 EPR laws are active in the US.  Most of them, passed in the last 10 years. The focus on packaging is now on the near horizon. In July 2021, Maine became the first US state to pass an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for Packaging law. The law mandates corporations pay for the cost of recycling wasteful packaging. Maine is not an outlier. In 2021, eleven states had new EPR bills in various stages of review.

What EPR Means for You

Some form of EPR for packaging exists in most European Union countries, and in a growing number of US States. Programs vary considerably in complexity, with some schemes requiring products to be split into over 15 different categories and sub-categories while others just ask for four or five.  All of them will require a careful look at product design, and packaging waste to reduce environmental impact.

  • Fees will increase, in some cases considerably, to ensure that producers are bearing a substantial proportion of waste management costs
  • Reporting requirements will become more complex, to allow for greater differentiation of fees (e.g., countries that currently allow reporting of all plastic packaging in one category will begin to ask for splits between HDPE, PET, PP etc.
  • Additional regulation and reporting requirements may be introduced by national authorities

How to Prepare for Extended Producer Responsibility Legislation in the US 

Preparing for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation in the US can feel daunting, but with a strategic approach, businesses can navigate the complexities smoothly. First, it’s essential to stay on top of the regulatory process—actively monitor updates, and don't hesitate to seek clarification on any ambiguous points. Consulting with experts like Lorax EPI can be incredibly beneficial; their specialized knowledge can help demystify the intricacies of EPR compliance. A crucial step in this preparation is data management which involves gathering, digitizing, and centralizing all critical data to streamline reporting processes. With Specright’s Specification Data Management Platform companies can manage and maintain data accuracy enabling organizations to confidently gear up for EPR legislation, ensuring compliance and fostering a sustainable business practice.

Specification Management: The Foundation of a Strong EPR Strategy

At the heart of every EPR strategy must be an engine that provides transparent visibility, simplifies regulatory reporting and helps your packaging and product teams make informed materials management decisions. Specifications are the structure by which those foundations can be built--they are the technical instructions needed to make a product. This includes everything from raw materials, ingredients, formulas, packaging, labels, and even machinery.  Tens of thousands of specification data points move across supply chains every day, but companies still struggle with finding an effective solution to managing specs.

Here’s how Specification Management software can help:

Measure your current product lifecycle impact on waste generation and waste disposal

  • Digitize and associate DNA-level specification data to products, materials, suppliers, vendors, and finished goods. Propagate changes with many-to-many relationship capabilities.

Analyze and identify areas of waste management optimization

  • Raw material usage, recycling rates, and other relevant data can be benchmarked with dashboards & reports to identify bottlenecks, trends, and progress sustainable products and their packaging over time.

Act upon those insights to drive transformation

  • Take action with your insights. Change out of compliance materials and packaging with your products. Identify sources of waste, and perform material optimization to save packaging costs.

Together, we can transform the way companies make amazing things to a more sustainable future for us all.

Learn more about our Specification Management Software.


Katie Exum

Katie Exum is a Product Manager at Specright, the leader in Specification Data Management. Katie has a background in packaging engineering, where she worked in the food & beverage industry, followed by consumer electronics at Amazon. She pivoted to working in data management at Specright, where she added experience in customer onboarding, then strategic partnerships, before transitioning into product management. Across all of her roles, Katie’s passion for sustainability has been an incorporated into her work. 

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