State and local government representatives agreed with the push for EPR and pointed to problems in recycling plastics as one motivator for them.
An official with King County in Washington state, for example, said that China's 2018 National Sword ban took away most of the export markets the county relied on and shifted costs to taxpayers.
"What's happened in King County is that a lot of our programs and our cities are dropping materials because it's just too expensive, especially the plastics," said Lisa Sepanski, project manager with the solid waste division in the county of 2.2 million people, which includes the city of Seattle.
"We have relied over the years on export markets, especially for plastics and paper, to make the financing of recycling pencil out," Sepanski said. "We need additional funding, but we need to fund the system of the future, not the broken system of the past."
The panel didn't talk about specific financing plans and how that might impact different packaging materials. In general, EPR plans put fees on packaging or require industry financial support, and often have business groups helping to manage the system.
At the moment, Keane said, there are many potential approaches, with about 10 states looking at serious EPR legislation. She suggested it could take five years to "get down to a good model that we can all start to work off of across the states and the federal level."
Both she and Felton talked about a "shared responsibility" funding model, and Keane said the system needs to focus both on new packaging types and be designed in an effective way.
FPA in December unveiled broad principles of EPR it supported, including for flexible plastic and paper packaging.
"We are favorable toward producer financing for these types of systems," she said. "But it could be a ton of money … and you could spend XYZ more amount of money and not get more recycling done."
Felton said Ameripen sees EPR as a way to increase markets and recycling opportunities for packaging, including for hard-to-recycle materials, and that such a system can be an alternative to city or state governments banning products.
"At the end of the day, we would rather ensure that producer responsibility can help maintain and increase those markets … so that we're not looking at alternatives such as product bans," Felton said.
But a state government official from Massachusetts pushed back on Felton's ban comments, arguing that local governments ban products when they see no viable recycling alternatives.
"In Massachusetts, we don't have any statewide bans, but we have over 160 cities and towns that have implemented product bans," said Brooke Nash, branch chief of municipal solid waste reduction in the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. "It's a reflection of the frustration of not being able to find any way to recycle this material."
Felton also noted business drivers for improving recycling. He pointed to a study his group released in March that found "major disconnects" between the recycled plastic volumes needed by consumer product companies and the available supply.
He said better funded recycling systems could help companies meet recycled content plastic packaging goals.