To beat back the growing burden of packaging waste, House lawmakers have proposed forcing manufacturers to help pay for recycling all those cardboard boxes and plastic clamshell containers.

By 2032, all packaging in the state would have to be reusable, recyclable or compostable, under a bill authored by Rep. Sydney Jordan, DFL-Minneapolis.

A handful of products in Minnesota, including paint and some electronics, are already subject to "extended producer responsibility." Jordan's bill would expand that policy to the makers of packaging, which accounts for 40% of the state's waste stream.

"We know that our landfills are filling up, and our waste is growing," Jordan said. "And so if we don't get a handle on this, our waste problem will continue to be more and more out of control."

The bill has the support of local governments and counties, several environmental groups and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, which would be tasked with enforcing it. But some members of the packaging and waste handling industries said in a House committee hearing this week that the proposal is both hasty and bureaucratic.

"There is [already] a structure in place, and it is adequately well funded here in the state of Minnesota," Tony Kwilas, of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, testified. He noted that the state has already funded a study on resource management that's slated to come out in July 2025, and some policies in Jordan's bill would go into effect earlier than that.

Under Jordan's proposal, an advisory board would devise recycling targets and ideas for reducing non-recyclable packaging. All packaging companies covered under the law would then have to register with and pay fees to a producer responsibility organization as soon as next year, which would be responsible for meeting those goals.

Similar packaging laws have been passed in four other states, though none have gone into full effect yet.

Bill supporters said it's only fair that the companies that create Minnesota's garbage take responsibility for it.

"Landfills are being filled with mountains of trash from hundreds of thousands of tons of valuable recycling every year," Ramsey County Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt testified this week. Under the bill, companies "will have skin in the game to help fix the waste problem they've created."

Other testifiers noted that waste from plastic packaging was showing up in unexpected places. Mary Kosuth, a researcher who is a member of the Coalition to Reduce Plastics, said that scientists are finding smaller and smaller particles of plastic in bottled water and the environment.

The volume of waste in the seven-county metro continues to grow, according to the MPCA. The region produces some 3.3 million tons a year, an amount that's expected to increase by 20% in the next two decades. Right now, state officials are simply aiming to keep waste amounts steady over that period, in part by encouraging more re-use of items such as electronics and discarded clothes.

At the same time, it has been a challenge to keep recycling and reuse infrastructure running. The Star Tribune reported Wednesday that the state's first recycler of plastic film had seemingly paused production two months after opening.

But some recyclers oppose the new bill. One point of contention is that the packagers' producer responsibility organizations would become the entities that contract with waste and recycling haulers and handlers across the state.

Amber Backhaus, a Minnesota representative for the National Waste and Recycling Association, an industry group, said it could effectively give packaging brands the ability to set rates and service territories.

The bill "creates an entirely new bureaucracy that allows the brand manufacturers… to run our businesses," Backhaus testified during the Tuesday hearing.

Jordan responded that the state has a landfill problem that has to be addressed.

"We do not have time to waste and admire our problem," she added.

The bill easily passed out of the House's Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday but will make several more stops before it reaches the floor. Sen. Kelly Morrison, DFL-Deephaven, is sponsoring the Senate's version, which was scheduled for its first hearing Thursday afternoon.