Why do we need EPR for packaging and paper products in Minnesota? 

A fully producer-funded system to expand recycling for packaging and paper products, ensure accountability for single-use products, and promote reuse in Minnesota, which will build on the state’s existing recycling infrastructure while ensuring sustainable funding to offset the costs of collection, expand end-markets, and shift producers to more reusable and sustainable packaging.

By increasing recycling, the EPR program will also create more good, sustainable jobs. Today, about 37,000 jobs in Minnesota are directly or indirectly supported by the recycling industry; these jobs pay almost $2 billion in wages and add nearly $8.5 billion to Minnesota’s economy. EPR will add more jobs like these.

Where is EPR for packaging and paper products currently being used? 

Packaging and paper EPR programs have been operational in 40 countries and provinces for over three decades – including in Europe and Canada, where recycling rates are as high as 90% in British Columbia. Since 2020, U.S. packaging EPR laws have been enacted in Maine, Oregon, Colorado, and California.

What’s covered under the program? 

Plastic bottles and containers, film plastics, metal and aluminum cans, glass bottles, cardboard, and printed paper – essentially, the materials currently collected in curbside recycling programs. Food service packaging and single-use packaging like takeout containers and plastic and paper bags. Also, single-use products for sale to residents and businesses.

Who will pay for these programs? 

Brand owners – known as “producers” – pay into a management organization called a producer responsibility organization, or “PRO.” The PRO uses the funds to pay for – and in some cases coordinate – the collection, sorting, and recycling of packaging and paper products. This includes investments in infrastructure and market development for recyclable materials, as well as reimbursements to local governments that run recycling programs. The PRO must internalize the costs of the EPR program and is prohibited from charging point-of-sale fees. This is all overseen by an advisory board and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency as well as regular audits of investments and costs.

How will it impact existing waste management? 

The program leverages public and private investments already made in Minnesota infrastructure. The PRO will work with existing haulers and materials recovery facilities to ensure recycling services are as conveniently available as trash collection. It will expand investments in this infrastructure and end markets for these materials to accommodate the increasing diversion from trash to reuse, recycling, and composting in Minnesota.

  • If you live in a community where your city coordinates recycling on your behalf, you will have little to no change in your service. Your city can continue to provide that service and will be reimbursed by the PRO for their costs.
  • If you live in a community where you contract direct with a hauler for recycling, you will have little to no change in your service.
  • If you live in an apartment, condo, or other multifamily building where a property manager or board coordinates service on behalf of residents, your recycling costs will be covered by the PRO and may see an increase in service accessibility and affordability.

Will prices go up? 

No. Because of the infinitesimal cost per package to producers, there have been no noticeable price increases in regions where packaging EPR programs are in place (Columbia School of Professional Studies, 2022). Furthermore, the law prohibits producers from charging consumers a fee to recoup the costs of compliance. In fact, without packaging EPR, consumers pay twice: First, for packaging, the cost of which is built into the product sticker price, and second, for the packaging’s collection, recycling, and disposal.

What are the environmental benefits? 

Increasing reuse and recycling saves energy. It takes 90% less energy to make a can from recycled aluminum compared to virgin material, 50% less energy to recycle glass, and 75% less to recycle paper. Also, the EPR system will place “eco-modulated fees” on packaging, which incentivize producers to choose more sustainable packaging and penalize those that use less environmentally friendly materials.

Who will oversee the program? 

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is responsible for enforcement and oversight. MPCA will also appoint a multi-stakeholder advisory board to provide ongoing program input and recommendations. The PRO must submit annual reports and five-year plans to the advisory committee for review and to MPCA for approval.

Will EPR simplify recycling – or just make it more complicated? 

With EPR, recycling will be much simpler and easier to understand! There will be a single, universal baseline list of recyclable statewide materials to reduce confusion and contamination and increase recycling rates. The PRO will fund and develop outreach and consumer education materials that are consistent across the entire state, building on existing educational efforts. 

What happens to disposable packaging?

This program is focused on funding investments in reuse, recycling, and composting infrastructure looking forward to an economy where all materials are designed to become resources for others to use. By the end of the first five-year plan all packaging will need to be either reusable, recyclable, or compostable. Disposal costs are not covered in this program.

How are multiple PROs or producers acting independently managed?

For the first plan only one PRO may apply to establish the program, but in the event one or more producer wants to comply independently with the program a coordinating body must be established. This coordinating body must merge the efforts of these different groups into one plan to be reviewed and approved by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. This is what is being done in Colorado.