The Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority (MIRA) facility in Hartford that closed. Cloe Poisson

Long story short: We have tons of material to recycle, but insufficient infrastructure to recycle it, and not enough incentives for companies to use recycled or recyclable packaging materials.

Having recently closed its Hartford incinerator, Connecticut is ground zero in the national transition to a more circular economy. CT HB6664, the Governor’s proposed bill currently being debated in the legislature, is the right suite of policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; increase recycling rates and reduce plastic waste; drive more sustainable packaging design; and achieve all these milestones through an industry-driven solution without government spending.

That’s why Atlantic Packaging, the largest privately held packaging company in North America, and the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR), an international trade association exclusively dedicated to improving plastic recycling, strongly support HB6664 and specifically the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging program created under Section 1 of the bill. Close to 40 countries and provinces have successfully used packaging EPR laws, some for more than 20 years, and we’re thrilled that in the last two years alone, four U.S. states have passed packaging EPR bills: Maine, Oregon, Colorado and California.

Atlantic Packaging serves Fortune 500 companies across industries from e-commerce to food and beverage to consumer goods and more. The company works daily with customers to use less packaging and transition them to more recyclable, sustainable materials. In Atlantic’s experience in advising hundreds of companies on packaging, almost all customers genuinely want to move to more sustainable packaging, but they are held back because it is often more expensive. With packaging EPR policies in place, brands are financially incentivized to eliminate unnecessary packaging and use recyclable or compostable packaging wherever possible. EPR creates a level playing field so that all companies must think about ways to improve their own packaging.

Opponents of packaging EPR argue that programs will lead to increased consumer prices. None of Atlantic’s interactions with consumer goods companies have found this to be true, nor does the research based on other EPR systems support this argument. EPR provides an elegant solution because it is still a market-based mechanism to spur innovation towards more sustainable packaging. The competition between companies is still there, and everyone is still on the same playing field of costs. Because of the ongoing competition, companies still have the same incentives to beat their competitors on price. Atlantic and the APR see the rising prices argument as an empty excuse to avoid making this critical change.

Connecticut’s recycling system needs improvement to increase collection rates and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A big part of this is improving plastics recycling. APR members work every day to recycle consumers’ plastic bottles, milk jugs, yogurt tubs, and more into new products and packaging. Nearly five billion pounds of plastic was recycled in 2020, but there is so much more we can do. U.S. plastics recyclers have the capacity to recycle 50% more plastic bottles today, but APR’s members are lacking the supply to be able to increase recycling rates because households lack more convenient recycling services and greater incentives to participate in recycling. This is why the APR is supporting HB6664 and EPR policies in several states.

HB6664 is a big change in how Connecticut manages its recycling system, and big change is often hard, but by standing in the way of a suite of proven policy solutions, opponents of HB6664 are essentially agreeing to export over a million tons of Connecticut’s waste to other states. This is expensive, risky and frankly, immoral.

Connecticut took a huge stand toward environmental justice in shutting down the Hartford incinerator, but shipping waste to landfills in other states that are traditionally located in BIPOC communities is a huge step backwards in environmental justice.

HB6664 is the responsible path forward for the economy, the environment, and for people. It is also an economic opportunity, not a threat, for the state’s current waste and recycling haulers. The state’s current waste haulers are in the best position to deliver new and expanded services to improve recycling because they have the existing infrastructure, partnerships, and experience to best serve the state. EPR will not replace the existing system–it will improve and modernize it.

People. Planet. Profit. HB6664 is a win-win-win across the board, and we urge Connecticut lawmakers to pass this critical legislation.

Wes Carter is the President, and Caroline James is the Director of Sustainability, for Atlantic Packaging, the largest privately owned packaging company in North America. Kate Bailey is the Chief Policy Officer for the Association of Plastic Recyclers.