Boston, MA — Yesterday, Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed the nation’s first law requiring producers of hazardous household products to safely collect and dispose of them. It is the eighth Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) law enacted in Vermont, which leads the nation in enacting EPR laws to manage consumer products. Many household products—including cleaning fluids, varnish, paint removers, fuel additives, and gas cylinders—contain toxic and/or flammable ingredients. Known as household hazardous waste (or “HHW”), these products require special handling once consumers are finished using them. Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets stringent requirements for hazardous waste generated by businesses, it does not regulate household products that contain the same hazardous materials.
“H.67 is the first law in the United States that brings producers of the most toxic and consequently difficult and costly-to-manage portion of the waste stream to the table to develop a plan that creates cleaner land and water for all Vermonters,” said Jen Holliday, Director of Public Policy and Communications for the Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD), chair of the Vermont Product Stewardship Council, and a PSI Board member. “In addition, producers will now be incentivized to develop less-toxic household products.” Holliday has been working on this legislation with PSI since 2017.
“As a result of the effectiveness of Vermont's existing EPR laws on paint, batteries, electronics, pharmaceuticals, and mercury lamps and thermostats, it has the highest per-capita collection and recycling rates in the nation for many of these products,” said Suna Bayrakal, PSI’s Director of Policy & Programs, who worked on the legislation. “We expect similar achievements from this new law in protecting public health and the environment by advancing the collection and safe management of a range of household hazardous products—aerosols, cleaning fluids, paint thinners, pool chemicals, among others. Although this is the first such law in the US, it has proven successful in Canada, where HHW EPR has been operating successfully since the 1990s.”
In Vermont, many local governments run HHW collection events to help residents safely dispose of these products, but these events are infrequent and often underfunded; others build and operate permanent facilities that collect HHW year-round, but at a major and growing expense to taxpayers and government. In many communities, where there is a lack of collection facilities or events, or inconsistent HHW collection services due to the limited resources of local governments, significant quantities of these materials are disposed of in the trash or down the drain—it is estimated that 855 tons or more per year of HHW are being disposed of in landfills in Vermont. These unsafe disposal practices contaminate the environment and threaten the safety of drinking water; when stored at home, HHW puts children and pets at risk for poisoning and can cause fires or release dangerous pollutants during flooding.
H.67 creates a statewide HHW EPR program, which will be managed and sustainably funded by the manufacturers of these products. Local governments will have the opportunity to participate in the program and be reimbursed by manufacturers for their costs of collection; they will also save money as transportation and processing costs are assumed by manufacturers. H.67 is consistent with current EPR best practices and contains key elements necessary for implementation of an effective HHW EPR law, including:
- Performance goals to measure progress;
- Annual reporting to provide transparency and monitor program implementation;
- Education and outreach to raise public awareness about how to safely manage HHW and reduce leftover products, including to Vermont’s diverse ethnic and environmental justice populations; and
- Opportunities to improve the stewardship plan as the program matures.
HHW EPR programs have operated successfully in Canada since the 1990s and, in the past few years, expanded to new provinces based on that success. In Manitoba, collection volumes increased four-fold in the first five years of program implementation; in British Columbia, more than 131,000 gallons of HHW were collected in 2017. Over the past decade, PSI analyzed the operational feasibility of EPR for HHW in the U.S., as well as best practices and lessons learned from existing programs across Canada.
PSI worked with Vermont’s state and local government officials, including those in the Vermont Product Stewardship Council, to develop and refine the legislation in Vermont, which builds on prior PSI work in Oregon. Our research on Canadian programs contributed to the development of the Vermont bill. Learn more on PSI’s HHW product page.PSI has also worked with Vermont stakeholders to develop the state’s other EPR laws on paint, electronics, pharmaceuticals, mercury lamps, mercury thermostats, and batteries.
Product Stewardship Institute (PSI)
PSI is a policy advocate and consulting nonprofit that pioneered product stewardship in the United States. Since 2000, PSI has helped enact 133 extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws across 17 product categories in 33 states — the bedrock of the circular economy. We work with governments, academia, nonprofits, and business to ensure that products are responsibly managed from design to end of life. Join us at www.productstewardship.us.
Contact: Scott Cassel, CEO and Founder, Product Stewardship Institute, 617-236-4822 or firstname.lastname@example.org