An initial extended producer responsibility for packaging plan in Oregon covers the years 2025 through 2027. | Yanqiang Dai/Shutterstock

The shape of Oregon’s extended producer responsibility for packaging plan is becoming clearer after the Circular Action Alliance released its initial program plan to the state. 

The 136-page plan lays out a plan for implementing the Recycling Modernization Act that builds on the existing system, upgrades facilities and improves public participation. It includes both timelines and acknowledgement of areas that still need to be refined.

Circular Action Alliance is a producer responsibility organization formed by brands that has been chosen as PRO in California and Colorado. On March 31, it submitted its initial program plan to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. 

In Oregon, prospective PROs must submit a plan to DEQ, instead of applying first and waiting to be selected before submitting a plan. The state then would choose among submitted plans, but CAA was the only group to submit a plan after others pulled out of the running. 

Charlie Schwarze, CAA board chair and senior director of sustainability at Keurig Dr Pepper, said in a press release that the group is “proud to submit our first plan, following many months of consultation with producers, local governments, services providers, nongovernmental organizations and DEQ.” 

“We look forward to continued collaboration with Oregon stakeholders as we prepare our final plan over the coming months,” he added. 

CAA is also initiating a System Optimization Project to build on an earlier survey commissioned by DEQ, aimed at gathering more data on local government requests for additional recycling infrastructure and expanded services to “more precisely estimate and schedule the distribution of funding for system improvements,” the plan noted. 

That project will collect more data between April and August 2024.

The initial plan will undergo review and consultation with the Oregon Recycling System Advisory Council and other stakeholder groups before DEQ presents feedback and requested revisions by July 31, 2024. CAA will then submit an updated version in September, and the program will officially be implemented in July 2025. 

Work left to do

The plan covers the years 2025 through 2027. It notes that there are still several key tasks that need to be completed, including setting up a way to provide compensation through a single accounting point-of-contact system to local governments for service expansion and also to set up a single accounting point-of-contact system for payment of contamination management fees and processor commodity risk fees to commingled recycling processing facilities.

In addition, the fee structure still needs to be refined, the plan notes, as CAA is waiting for more current data. 

“Once the Oregon program launches, CAA will use actual program data to inform the program budget and resulting fees,” the plan stated. 

For the first year of the program, CAA developed a range of program cost estimates. Under the base case scenario, it expects to generate $226 million in producer fees to cover an estimated program cost of $219 million. Under the high case scenario, those numbers are $292 million generated to cover an estimated program cost of $287 million.

The plan also does not put forward suggested eco-modulation fee structures. 

“CAA fully supports the notion of developing a graduated fee structure to incentivize producers to continually reduce environmental and human health impacts and commits to implementing a fee methodology that meets these regulatory requirements,” the plan noted, but “as of the submission of this program plan, CAA does not have a specific eco-modulation proposal developed for review.”

Instead, CAA is suggesting that interim voluntary eco-modulation options should be developed for producers, and then it would work with producers and other stakeholders to develop permanent membership fee incentives. 

“In CAA’s view, in order to ensure the effectiveness of graduated fees to establish appropriate price signals that balance action and fairness, CAA considers it imperative to allow adequate time to assess the potential impacts of different approaches, criteria and the required underlying data,” the plan stated. 

CAA is also proposing that the Uniform Statewide Collection List be expanded to include PET thermoforms, transparent blue and green PET bottles, and spiral wound containers. It suggests a trial to explore commingled collection of polycoated paper packaging and single-use cups, as well. 

Infrastructure plans

The plan lays out the anticipated price tags of infrastructure improvements for the first several years. 

The preliminary estimated funding for local government system expansion is between $54 million and $70 million in 2025; between $143 million and $186 million in 2026; and between $159 million and $207 million in 2027, for a total program plan funding cost of between $356 million and $463 million. 

All PRO funding for expansions and provision of recycling services from July 2025 through December 2027 will be prioritized following guidelines set out in the law. 

The highest priority is given to local governments that are not, or will not be, able to provide the opportunity to recycle otherwise, followed by existing recycling depots and local governments with populations less than 4,000. Next on the priority list are local governments of any size that are looking to add new on-route or recycling depot service. Finally, all other local governments looking to expand existing on-route collection or recycling depots will be considered, in order of ascending population. 

In order to meet convenience requirements set out in law, CAA estimated that it will need to establish between 138 and 189 points of collection for materials on the acceptance lists, which includes 38 identified areas where on-route collection may, in part, replace the need for a physical depot. 

The law requires prioritizing permitted DEQ facilities and existing depots, so CAA plans to issue letters to all 173 existing permitted depot sites it identified “inviting them to participate in the PRO depot network,” the plan added. 

The 173 locations would meet the state convenience standards of reaching more than 95% of

residents within a 15-mile range and having at least one site per county. However, they may not meet the city convenience standards, the plan stated. 

“Given the location requirements, many gaps were discovered in the state where alternative locations or methods of collection are needed,” the plan stated. “To fill some of the gaps, CAA researched likely participating partner locations.” 

Those include St. Vincent de Paul, Bring Recycling, Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative, Habitat ReStores in the Portland Area, James Recycling in the Metro Area, City of Roses Disposal and Recycling, Trash for Peace and The Arc of Portland. 

Collection targets 

The plan also put forward initial proposed collection targets for the PRO depot network. 

They are: 325 tons, or a 11.6% collection rate, for steel and aluminum aerosol packaging; 120 tons, a 15% collection rate, for single-use pressurized cylinders; 1,950 tons, a 5.9% collection rate, for polyethylene film; 390 tons, a 6.2% collection rate, for aluminum foil and pressed foil products; 490 tons, a 9.2% collection rate, for block white expanded polystyrene; 290 tons, a 10% collection rate, for polyethylene and polypropylene lids and HDPE package handles; and 975 tons, a 15% collection rate, for plastic buckets, pails and storage containers.

The statewide recycling goal for plastic packaging is at least 25% by 2028, 50% by 2040 and 70% by 2050. 

“CAA expects the increase in access to recycling for a greater range of plastic products, coupled with the continued success of other recycling programs, such as OBRC, to allow the state to reach the first plastics recycling goal of 25% by 2028,” the plan noted. 

To meet the 2028 goal, CAA estimates that an additional 16,678 tons of plastic will need to be recycled over a 2023 baseline, though that could change with updated data. 

The plan also details transportation reimbursement costs, responsible end market requirements, end market verification and education and outreach plans, including an online portal. 

“There is no doubt that effectively and efficiently transitioning to a shared responsibility model of materials management and delivering on other RMA priorities will be a complicated and challenging effort and one in which producers and other stakeholders will learn much along the way,” the plan noted. “But CAA is confident the transition can and will happen successfully.”

A version of this story appeared in Resource Recycling on Apr. 9.

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