Hawai'i Announces Coordinated Effort to Hold Plastic Packaging Producers Responsible
Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – Representative Nicole E. Lowen today joined state legislators from nine states in announcing a coordinated effort to hold producers responsible for the end-of-life management of plastic packaging. States included California, Colorado, Hawaiʻi, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Each of these legislators are introducing extended producer responsibility bills or introducing legislation as part of a long-term plan to get there.
Rep. Lowen (D-6, Kailua-Kona, Hōlualoa, Kalaoa, Honokōhau) has introduced HB 1316 to require producers of packaging waste be responsible for the end-of-life management of their products in a way that ensures minimal social and environmental impacts.
Current estimates show that the United States only recycles about 50% of post-consumer packaging. Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is a strategy to incorporate all of the environmental costs associated with a product throughout its life cycle, and could increase recycling, reduce the current volume of packaging, and help divert single-use plastics from pollutive waste management methods. Hawaiʻi has already passed single-use plastic bans for certain items at the state and county levels, and Rep. Lowen joins other state legislators in agreement that the next step is tackling pollution at its source.
"We cannot keep pushing environmental costs on to states and municipalities while the industries that profit from polluting continue to peddle the myth that local, taxpayer-funded recycling programs and individual actions alone are real solutions,” said Rep. Lowen. “In Hawaiʻi, plastics and other packaging waste threaten our marine resources and pollute our beaches, impacting the economy, public health, and our way of life. By working with other states through NCEL's network, it is my hope that together we can move the industry to take action on a national scale, and move the public to demand that they do so."
By working together, these states are also addressing the environmental injustices from incinerators, packaging contents, and landfills. Phasing out the incineration of harmful plastics will allow marginalized communities to have cleaner air to breathe and reduced toxins in their environment. Including recycled content provisions in EPR packaging policies can force manufacturers to eliminate harmful substances in packaging, so these substances aren’t recycled back into products. Finally, increased recycling will divert additional plastic waste from landfills which takes hundreds of years to break down, creating microplastics and releasing toxins into the earth and our waterways.
States know they are more powerful when acting together. In addition to jointly introducing legislation, these legislators are forming an EPR for Packaging Network. By creating this network, legislators are establishing a group of lawmakers to exchange policy ideas, strategies, and lessons learned.
“These state legislators are committed to reducing plastic pollution waste and ensuring healthy communities,” said Jeff Mauk, Executive Director of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators. “By acting together these legislators are able to ensure strong and ambitious EPR policies that can be adapted by future states. They are demonstrating the value in having state legislators work together across state lines.”
Created by and for state legislators, the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that organizes over 1,000 environmentally committed state legislators from all 50 states and both parties. NCEL provides venues and opportunities for lawmakers to share ideas and collaborate on environmental issues.