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Is Your Brand Ready for Upcoming Sustainability Laws?

March 6, 2024

Is Your Brand Ready for Upcoming Sustainability Laws?

A Need-To-Know Guide for Designing Packaging in the NEW EPR Regulatory Environment

When creating a packaging design strategy, it is not only important to meet today’s current market demands, but also to seamlessly incorporate North American legislation updates as they are enacted, particularly those related to Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws. These regulations pertain specifically to sustainable claim labeling requirements and end-of-life plans for sustainable packaging. As the packaging industry takes bold strides towards sustainability, brands must align with the legislative mandates shaping the future of responsible business practices.

Current EPR, Labeling Laws and Bottle Bill regulatory legislation

  1. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws are regulatory frameworks designed to shift the responsibility for end-of-life management of a product from consumers and local governments to the producers or manufacturers. The typical stated goal is to encourage producers to consider the entire life cycle of their products, including disposal and recycling, and to take responsibility for the environmental impact of those products.
    • State laws will vary in terms of their goals. producer responsibility, and other requirements that must be met to follow the rules.
    • If producers don’t follow the rules, they must pay fees. These fees will go to fund local programs that address the increasing costs of recycling infrastructure.
    • Full packaging EPR Laws by state:
      • California – producers obligated by 2027
      • Colorado – producers obligated by 2025
      • Maine – producers obligated by 2026
      • Oregon – producers obligated by 2025
  1. Federal FTC Green Guides are aimed at ensuring the accuracy of environmental claims and helping marketers avoid deceptive environmental assertions. To address evolving market and industry dynamics, revisions encompassing a diverse range of perspectives from consumers and industry stakeholders will be made in 2024. (The FTC has typically updated the Green Guides about once every 10 years.)
    • The guide provides:
      • General principles applicable to all environmental marketing claims
      • Insights into how consumers might interpret specific claims
      • Guidelines for marketers to substantiate their claims to prevent consumer deception

Some states are in the beginning stages of implementing state-specific labelling laws that will establish regulations around recyclability, compostability, and other sustainable on-pack labelling for packaging sold into their state, e.g., California SB 343 and Oregon SB-582.

  1. Bottle Bills or Container Deposit laws add a small deposit on top of the price of a beverage that is repaid to the consumer when the empty container is returned to the retailer for recycling.
    • This incentive-based method is intended to reduce litter while increasing recycling rates.
    • Federal Regulatory Environment
      • Legislation at the federal level was introduced as recently as October 2023 under the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act but was unsuccessful.
      • The program now being proposed would implement a 10¢ USD deposit on all eligible containers, subject to inflation and other factors. Consumers would be able to return their eligible containers at retailers and licensed redemption centers.
    • State Regulatory Environment
      • Currently, there are ten bottle bill states in the U.S.: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and Vermont.

Preparing for EPR and sustainable claim labeling requirements.

When looking at the varied regulatory environment across the country, consider how your brand can be intentional with design and maintain impactful, cost-effective packaging while meeting the necessary sustainability requirements. Companies may want to proactively assess and validate data systems now to be well-prepared for the implementation of EPR reporting requirements in the states where they market covered packaging materials. It is also advisable to have your company’s legal counsel provide guidance and take part in decision making around on-pack claims. As per current EPR regulations, producers in Colorado and Oregon are mandated to commence reporting in 2025, those in Maine in 2026, and those in California in 2027.

Reporting requirements will include:

  1. Material Transparency: Ensure clear documentation of the materials used in packaging, detailing types, and percentages.
  2. Weight Management: Document the weight of each packaging material employed. This information aids in logistics planning and assists in estimating potential recycling costs.
  3. Volume Estimation: Keep track of the volume of packaging units sold. This data helps estimate the potential waste stream, providing valuable insights for waste management strategies.

Considering that EPR fees are likely to be determined based on material and weight, accurate reporting will be crucial to minimize errors and save significant costs. Even a minor mistake, such as misclassifying corrugated as paperboard or inaccurately referencing the weight per material instead of the entire package, could have a substantial impact on the fees incurred. Preparing in advance is a cost-effective measure to ensure accurate reporting and compliance with packaging regulations.

If not already doing so, brands should consider looking at source reduction strategies for packaging design. These include eliminating of unnecessary packaging materials, incorporating post-consumer recycled (PCR) content, and promoting reuse. Additionally, brands must stay informed about evolving EPR and EPA regulations. Regularly updating packaging design teams and legal teams on regulatory laws and compliance requirements will ensure that they are well-versed in the latest standards.

Printpack has a team of engineers dedicated to sustainable packaging innovation who collaborate with our customers on sustainable packaging.

Sources:

California Labelling Law: https://calrecycle.ca.gov/wcs/recyclinglabels/

Oregon Labelling Law: https://www.oregon.gov/deq/recycling/pages/tiltaskforce.aspx

SPC EPR Database: https://epr.sustainablepackaging.org/

Bottle Bill Info: https://www.bottlebill.org/index.php/about-bottle-bills/benefits-of-bottle-bills

Packaging Dive: https://www.packagingdive.com/news/packaging-laws-2024-pfas-plastic-bag-ban-recycled-content/703285/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Issue:%202024-01-02%20Packaging%20Dive%20%5Bissue:57760%5D&utm_term=Packaging%20Dive

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