A Guide To Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) in the US

By Tamara Davison on May 31, 2024
A Guide To Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) in the US
Tamara Davison
Tamara Davison

Tamara Davison is a journalist who specializes in sustainability and the environment. Reporting from around the world, she's seen firsthand the direct impact waste is having on coastal communities and our oceans. As a diver trained in ecological monitoring, the changes Tamara has seen in marine habitats inspired her to action. She's previously written for The Guardian, The Independent and the Evening Standard. She's also produced environmental documentaries for EuroNews.

The United States generated around 40 million tons of plastic waste in 2021, but just 5% of that was recycled (Beyond Plastics, 2021). 

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) might offer a solution. Governments worldwide are embracing this type of legislation because of its promising impact on waste reduction and recycling. 

Recognizing the value of investing in a circular economy, parts of the US have also adopted some EPR initiatives in recent years. 

However, state-wide complexities mean the US approach to EPR can sometimes take time to navigate. Here’s what you need to know. 

Once you're up to date with EPR regulation, it's time to get your company's plan in place — that's where we come in. You can partner with CleanHub to collect plastic as part of your EPR program. All you need to do is get in touch with our in-house team of experts, who can help you choose the right plan to suit your business’s needs. 


What’s on this page? 

01 | What is Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)?
02 | How does EPR work in the US?
03 | Which US states currently have EPR legislation in place? 
04 | Which businesses are affected by EPR laws in the US?
05 | How to make your business EPR-compliant
06 | Why is the US introducing EPR legislation?
07 | What are the benefits and challenges of the EPR law in the US?
08 | Summary


What is Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)?

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is legislation that holds businesses accountable for the entire lifecycle of their products. It aims to reduce packaging waste and support a circular economy. 

Having EPR legislation in place means that even after brands have sold their products, they can’t ignore their environmental responsibilities. So, it incentivizes brands to factor in product design, recyclability, reusability, and waste collection. 

Implemented nationwide or state-wide, EPR policies address environmental concerns and unlock opportunities for businesses. 



How does EPR work in the US?

Things are a little complex in the US because EPR works at a state level — and only a few states currently have policies in place. 

This means the whole country doesn’t have to adhere to EPR, but brands operating in certain parts of the nation do. 

Maine first introduced EPR in the US in 2021, and four more US states have enacted EPR packaging laws since then. 

So how does it work? Businesses operating within these jurisdictions must follow strict recycling and EPR requirements. 

Policies vary depending on each state, but brands are generally expected to invest in waste collections, report on efforts to reduce single-use plastic, and invest in recycling initiatives. 

It also varies by product, meaning some laws only apply to things like electronics, so we advise looking into your local EPR legislation to make sure you're following the correct procedures — which brings us to our next section.


Which US states currently have EPR legislation in place? 

A growing number of US states have implemented some type of EPR packaging legislation over the last few years. 

Under these policies, certain businesses have to join a Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO), which acts as an operator for implementing and overseeing EPR policies and requirements. PROs ensure businesses comply with the EPR law. 

It’s also worth noting that implementing EPR legislation takes time, and we might not see the results for several years. 

The table below outlines which US states have implemented EPR plans, and when they’ll be formally introduced. 

State Year announced When it will be enforced
Maine 2021 2026
Oregon 2021 2025
California 2022 2032
Colorado 2022 2025
Minnesota 2024 2032



In July 2021, the state of Maine passed a bill (LD1541) that ordered companies to join a Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) and pay for packaging waste management

It was a big moment for the US because it marked the first time an EPR law was enacted in the country. What’s more, Maine's framework has inspired several other EPR policies across the US.

However, the EPR policy will take several years to come to fruition. Producers will not have to make payments until 2026, and funds for more recycling will only be directed to municipalities in 2027. While legislators haven’t specifically explained why it’ll take so long, Maine’s website lists a number of programs that need to be introduced for EPR to be enacted. 


Oregon became the second state to pass an EPR packaging law (SB582) in 2021. Like Maine, businesses that sell packaging must join a stewardship organization and pay for improvements in state-wide recycling initiatives. 

This law has various exemptions and nuances, depending on the materials your business uses and the types of product packaging. Producers impacted by this law have until July 2025 to join a PRO and commit to the EPR regulation.


According to California’s government website, the state’s SB 54 law was the  “most significant overhaul of California’s plastics and packaging recycling policy in history.” Like others on this list, it encourages producers of single-use packaging to join a PRO and contribute financially toward waste management. From 2027, producers are expected to pay up to $500 million per year.

By 2032, the PRO must ensure that 100% of packaging is recyclable or compostable and that 65% of single-use materials are recycled. According to the California government website, the EPR law impacts around 13,615 businesses across the Golden State. 


Before implementing an EPR law, Colorado’s recycling rate was just 15%. In 2022, Colorado signed Bill HB22-1355 into law, ordering businesses to join a PRO and pay toward state-wide recycling. 

According to a press release in Colorado, the goal is to unlock access to recycling of packaging and paper for all people in the state. Businesses have until 2025 to join a PRO.


In May 2024, Minnesota became the fifth US state to sign an EPR bill into law. At the time, the state’s governor, Tim Walz, signed the Packaging Waste and Cost Reduction Act as part of a broader environmental initiative. 

This marked another exciting moment for the US because it was the first state to pass an EPR bill since 2022. Environmental groups welcomed the move, heralding the legislature as another sign that EPR was working in the US. 

Under the new law, producers must pay half of Minnesota’s recycling costs, and by 2032 all packaging in the state must be recyclable, reusable, compostable, or collected.

Which US states are planning to release EPR legislation?

The last few years were good for EPR in the US, but 2024 could be even better. 

According to the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators, several US states have moved their EPR bills out of committee, meaning they’re in the process of enacting the legislation. 

These include New York, Tennessee, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Rhode Island. While these bills differ, they all center on reducing packaging waste and recycling initiatives.  

Illinois and Maryland have also introduced pre-EPR measures and are expected to conclude assessments by next year. Although EPR measures in Hawaii were previously delayed, more policies are also reportedly under consideration. 


A bird's eye view of orange plastic bottles on a production line


Which businesses are affected by EPR laws in the US?

EPR packaging laws usually impact producers, which legislation in Maine defines as “a person that has legal ownership of the brand of products sold or is the sole entity that imports to the state for sale.” In short, a producer is a brand or person that sells products. 

However, as policies vary by state, so do the types of businesses impacted. 

There are also exceptions to some EPR rules based on your business's revenue and size. For instance, businesses in Maine that make less than $2,000,000 in gross annual revenue aren’t impacted by the state’s law. 

Because each state's EPR law varies, it’s best to check it independently on state websites. For more information, visit the National Congress of State Legislatures, which provides a robust and interactive guide to nationwide EPR policies. 



How to make your business EPR-compliant

Given the likelihood of more EPR policies being enacted in the US, businesses should be paying attention. 

Making your organization EPR-compliant can help navigate incoming legislation and help you stand out as a brand that takes its environmental commitments seriously. Here are a few tips: 

  • Conduct a life cycle assessment (LCA): It’s best to understand your products’ life cycle to identify any weaknesses and areas needing the most improvement. An LCA should provide you with comprehensive information about the environmental impacts of your products at each stage. 
  • Invest in packaging innovations: One of the biggest focuses of EPR policies is ending single-use plastic. Luckily, there are plenty of material alternatives that can eliminate the need for single-use plastic in the future. Partner with a sustainable packaging supplier and explore options like recycled plastic or biodegradable packages made from mycelium.  
  • Explore plastic credits: Another primary EPR focus is post-customer waste. Plastic credits offer an innovative solution, allowing brands to fund plastic collections around our planet and stop waste destined for our oceans. When choosing a plastic credits partner, look for an organization that has environmental accreditation (like TÜV SÜD), and a track record of helping businesses like yours achieve results. 
  • Ensure regular reporting: Businesses risk facing hefty fines if they don’t hold up their end of the bargain. Regular reporting can help navigate these risks, giving you a good oversight of operations and data on your EPR commitments. At CleanHub, we also leverage advanced track-and-trace technology that helps your business ensure accountability, something that regulators will be looking out for. 

EPR penalties to be aware of

EPR laws are still in their infancy, but US businesses could be penalized if they fail to adhere to EPR rules. 

According to Valpak, an organization that helps brands ensure regulatory compliance, these fines can cost thousands of dollars. 

For instance, in Oregon, businesses could reportedly face fines of up to $1,000 a day for violating the state’s EPR law. Whereas in Maine, brands could be charged $100 for EPR failings. 


Why is the US introducing EPR legislation?

Our planet’s plastic crisis is escalating. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has warned that plastic production will double in the next 20 years, taking a massive toll on our natural world, animal ecosystems, and human health. 

But the tide is turning. 

Conscious consumers are on the rise: more than half of shoppers in the UK are prepared to boycott brands that make misleading environmental claims. A further 85% of Americans plan to shop eco-friendly this year. 

The wave of consumer activism isn’t the only reason EPR legislation is gaining traction. Governments are increasingly placing pressure on brands that have notoriously profited from unsustainable practices in the past. 

That’s why EPR legislation is important, and we’ll likely see many more EPR policies implemented across the US in the future. 


What are the benefits and challenges of EPR law in the US?

Benefits Challenges
Helps reduce plastic waste polluting the environment EPR policies vary depending on the state, leading to complications
Can help brands appeal to customers that care about the planet Some EPR policies have failed to pass through the government 
Could potentially reduce taxes and costs for consumers Implementation of EPR policies can take years 
Presents opportunities for product and packaging development that could lead to long-term savings  


EPR policies in the US can unlock a wealth of benefits. These policies protect the environment by reducing landfill waste, driving down pollution, and promoting the conservation of precious resources. 

While we’re hopeful about further EPR legislation, the sobering reality is that there are also some significant challenges. Some states have failed to pass EPR bills because of opposition, and players heavily invested in the plastic industry may try to delay such policies. 

The biggest issue is state-wide legislation's complexity, making EPR harder to monitor and enforce. Perhaps the answer could be a federal EPR ruling, but it looks like that’s some way off. 



EPR will continue transforming how our world views waste; however, it can’t succeed alone. 

For EPR to have the desired effect, it needs to be implemented as part of a broader environmental strategy that offers waste management solutions and supports brands' transition away from unsustainable practices. 

Governments, businesses, and consumers must work together to positively impact our planet. Only through collaboration will we see lasting improvements to the environment. 

Once you're up to date with EPR regulation, it's time to get your company's plan in place — that's where we come in. You can partner with CleanHub to collect plastic as part of your EPR program. All you need to do is get in touch with our in-house team of experts, who can help you choose the right plan to suit your business’s needs. 

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