Global sustainability legislation drives the packaging industry's current landscape and future outlook.
In PMMI Business Intelligence’s 2022 report, “Future of Packaging and Sustainability,” PMMI researchers compiled a list of key legislation that changes how the packaging industry approaches production, lifespan, and waste management.
Sustainability Legislation to Reduce Plastic Waste
Plastic is the most regulated of all packaging materials, with several laws enacted in hopes to prevent it from becoming waste.
California’s Assembly Bill 793, signed into law in September 2020 and dubbed the “Bottle Bill,” requires post-consumer recycled (PCR) content standards for plastic beverage containers subject to the California Refund Value (CRV).
The Bottle Bill required these bottles be made with 15% recycled content by 2022 and, eventually, 50% recycled content by 2030.
“As an industry overall, there is definitely more momentum to use more PCR and find more sustainable solutions,” says one global packaging development lead at a packaging materials manufacturer. Though PCR is not their only focus, as they add, “Our primary effort is optimizing [i.e., eliminating and/or reducing] packaging.”
Maine and Oregon became the first two US states to introduce extended producer responsibility (EPR) legislation for plastic packaging in 2021. These laws shift the responsibility of packaging waste management to producers rather than municipalities or individuals.
One packaging specialist at a consumer packaged goods company advocates for this type of regulation in the report, saying, “responsibility to create the aftermarket should lie with plastic producers since they created initial projects. Responsibility also lies with the packaging designer; there should be an incentive to stop using unnecessary plastic.”
“Recyclers and their facilities are doing the best they can, it’s not their role to find end uses for recycled material,” the packaging specialist adds. “I think it will take regulation to push plastic sustainability forward.”
Further exerting pressure to handle waste locally are tightening regulations and bans around plastic waste shipments, such as rules applied by the European Union (EU) in 2021.
Plastic waste measures vary at regional and national levels but broadly target material recyclability, recovery, and rates of recycled content.
Reuse and Circular Packaging Momentum
From optimal eco-design to reusable packaging, there is impetus to create a circular economy for all packaging.
Implementation of circular economy initiatives has been affirmed in law, in corporate 2025 and 2030 pledges, and in initiatives such as the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan, a building block of the European Green Deal adopted in 2020.
Packaging, waste, or environmental laws mostly target the move to sustainable materials and increased recycling rates.
More countries are using EPR and deposit return systems to advance the circular economy.
Lowering Footprints with Decarbonization
The rise in country and regional commitments to meet net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 is shaping national laws and the environmental goals of brand packaging users and packaging producers and converters.
The priority in this space is on renewable and recycled substrates and conversion from fossil fuels toward renewable-powered operations.
Source: PMMI Business Intelligence, 2022 Future of Packaging and Sustainability
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