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New resource reviews global packaging frameworks, standards, and definitions

As more and more brands commit to packaging goals around reusability, recyclability, compostability, etc., it is becoming more important to clarify and align definitions.

AMERIPEN’s improves clarity and alignment around definitions of packaging materials and management processes.
AMERIPEN’s improves clarity and alignment around definitions of packaging materials and management processes.

AMERIPEN – the American Institute for Packaging and the Environment – has introduced a new resource, Packaging Materials Management Definitions: A Review of Varying Global Standards, to improve clarity and alignment around definitions of packaging materials and management processes. Notes AMERIPEN, as more brands work toward ambitious, 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable goals tied to packaging attributes, understanding how those attributes are defined—and how they affect validation of claims—is instrumental.

According to the coalition, across the U.S., there are 18 different definitions of recycling; there are even more globally. Understanding what is meant by key terms, including “recyclable,” “reusable,” “compostable,” “renewable,” and “recycled content,” informs how goals are set and results are measured, influences policy creation, and drives the application of regulations. These terms also affect material and design strategies.

“As our vision of a circular economy grows—and along with it the proliferation of definitions related to reuse, recycling, and composting—there’s increasing uncertainty about which definitions take precedence,” says Ron Cotterman, AMERIPEN Treasurer and VP of Corporate Innovation and Sustainability at Sealed Air. “The AMERIPEN guide spells out very clearly the legal hierarchy of definitions when it comes to policy and regulatory implications. This resource is an invaluable tool for anyone seeking to understand the origin and applicability of key terms related to packaging materials management goals and processes.”

The AMERIPEN guide reviews and compares global frameworks put forth by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and others. The document provides a detailed, side-by-side comparison of definitions for common packaging attributes and processes.

Differences between definitions can create trade and marketing obstacles when one jurisdiction’s definition differs from another’s, AMERIPEN explains. “As packaging materials management issues become increasingly global, there is a push to harmonize practices and leverage existing legal frameworks to help manage material flows,” says Lee Anderson, AMERIPEN President and Director of Issues Management and State Affairs at General Mills. “Awareness of the context influencing various definitions will bring us closer to an understanding of what common principles should define how we manage packaging materials.

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