Keeping Up with Regulatory Trends, Business Opportunities in Sustainable Packaging

Bob Kerr

Posted 2 hours ago. About 5 minutes reading time.

Picture: Mars

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As we see more and more legislation aimed at improving both the recyclability and safety of packaging, it’s best to first understand your company’s bottomline on sustainable packaging. Also, there is a growing number of tools being developed to help organizations stay on top of things and meet these evolving needs.

In recent years there has been a remarkable growth and interest in sustainable packaging regulations. company incl
Mars,
Walmart,
MilliporeSigma

and PepsiCo are leading the way with innovative programs to revamp their packaging designs to reduce waste and increase recyclability. Yet all companies are faced with the complex world of government regulations, penalties and guidelines to make strides towards safer and more sustainable packaging – so where do you start?

Why the increased attention to sustainable packaging?

A key reason for the increased attention to sustainable packaging was the increasing dependency on plastic
and the associated accumulation of plastic waste entering the environment. Recent studies and campaigns have highlighted these issues – be it the massive amounts of plastic in Pacific and Eddy of the Atlantic Ocean,
Plastics in rainwater in the Rocky Mountainsor the Plastic bottle and bag waste on our beaches
and in our quarters. A New study found microplastics in blood
by almost 80 percent of the people tested. The amount of plastic waste we generate each year has doubled in the last two decadesWith The packaging accounts for about 40 percent of this. It is projected more than double again by 2040
if we do not make the necessary changes.

Another reason for the focus on packaging is the growing awareness of health risks from hazardous chemicals present as additives in some packaging – especially food packaging. The most important example that most of us are currently aware of has been added on purpose per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) Chemicals that can be found in everyday packaging such as pizza boxes and pastry wrappers to prevent grease from leaking through the box. Exposure to PFAS has been linked to male infertility, miscarriage, an increased risk of certain types of cancer, liver damage, and other well-known factors Health Effects.
bisphenols (e.g., eps) and polystyrene are other chemicals in food packaging that are of concern.

What federal or state regulations are most important to companies working to develop sustainable packaging?

Limited action has been taken at the federal level; and it seems unlikely that will change anytime soon. To fill this gap, several states are developing regulations to address these issues — including groundbreaking new legislation in the last year targeting material health/removal of chemicals of concern, harsh requirements for recycled content, and implementation of extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs.

For example, Washington has paved the way with a multi-stakeholder effort to identify Alternatives to using PFAS in food packaging; and other states are passing similar laws. Maine has issued a
total ban on PFAS
Chemicals in consumer goods by 2030.

Oregon has Set recycling quotas
for plastic packaging starting at 25 percent by 2028 and increasing to 70 percent by 2050. New Jersey

and Washington have both set requirements that gradually increase the minimum recycled content for some types of new packaging products up to 50 percent.

Maine was even more notable in 2021 first state to enact an EPR program
for paper and packaging waste; and Oregon quickly followed. Both states have introduced “manufacturer pays” obligations for packaging and other materials. Companies that produce or use packaging within the scope of the regulation must join for a fee, Producer Responsibility Organizations (or “PROs“). These organizations are used to pay for the cost of recycling or disposal of the waste by local communities and other infrastructure functions. While details vary between states, a company’s PRO fees are based on factors such as the weight and volume of covered packaging sold in the states; percent recycled content; recyclability of the material; and the toxicity of materials, dyes, or other chemical additives.

While PROs have been deployed in several states to make corporations responsible for collecting unused drugs, medical sharps/needles, carpets, mattresses and other consumer goods; What is What is new in the US is the application of this model to waste materials as a market incentive to increase recycling and reduce the unnecessary use of materials – this is the approach that Europe took.

Are there tools to help them develop their sustainable packaging programs?

The state regulations are great advances. For companies, however, this means that they have to keep an eye on and meet the requirements of different countries. Most companies try to meet the strictest requirements to avoid having to constantly adapt their products and packaging.

There are tools to help meet these requirements – such as Sustainable Packaging Guidelines from
IMFGuidelines for recycled content from the Coalition for Sustainable Packagingand design for recyclability guidelines from
Walmart

and the Association of Plastics Recyclers.

Howeverit is best to understand first
the foundation of your business in relation to sustainable packaging – this means knowing the materials used, whether the materials are sustainably sourced or recycled, how much of the materials are used, whether the packaging is recyclable and other metrics. Plans can then be developed using available regulations and guidance. Most companies use targets to define the required progress and track it over time. However, sustainable packaging progress requires more than a few design changes. Systematic changes are required; So look for collaborative programs that align with your company’s plans and goals – such as US Plastic Pact.

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