This year will likely prove to be another significant and precedent-setting year with the addition of several new state laws that will govern how packaging is made and managed at the end of life. Last year witnessed some of the most spirited debates on recycling and pack-aging policy in decades, and specific attention to plastic pollution was widespread in the public and the minds of state policymakers; 2022 is proving no different.
This year, the breadth of states debating packaging issues has broadened, and intensive negotiations are not just happening in a few states. A dozen states are working on extended producer responsibility (EPR) bills for packaging and many more are addressing issues like recycled content mandates, labeling, and toxic chemicals in packaging. Just a few of those states engaged in these topics include:
- California: With the California Plastic Waste Reduction Regulations Initiative on the November 2022 statewide ballot for a vote, negotiations around a bill to avoid the ballot process kicked off early and furiously around Senate Bill 54. SB 54 is seen as a vehicle to address recycling via some modified version of EPR with recycling-rate mandates that must be achieved. There is also speculation that the e-commerce plastic ban bill will be back in some form.
- Maryland: Following productive work in 2021 with Delegate Brooke Lierman, the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA), and other key stakeholders that sup-ported the bill in 2021, are hopeful that 2022 legislation can offer a model for addressing EPR for packaging.
- Vermont: Advocates for EPR are trying to bring more industry perspectives, and FPA has been engaged in a dialogue hoping to introduce a bill we can support and get traction on in 2022, following a stalled bill in 2021.
- Connecticut: The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection reached out to FPA and other stakeholders early, going into 2022, to work with the industry to develop concepts that could be supported in an EPR for packaging bill introduced for the first time in this state.
- New York: Following a strong push in the state senate in 2021, efforts to resurrect EPR for packaging as a priority continues on both sides of the issue. However, the outcome remains in question. Additionally, labeling bills and recycled content requirements are emerging as potential issues to be addressed in the legislature this year.
- Washington state: Following the passage of a recycled content law for plastic packages in 2021, Senator Mona Das is back in 2022 seeking EPR for all packaging with additional recycled content mandates. With a shorter time frame to act, the Washington Legislature is balanc-ing several environmental priorities.
- Others: Additionally, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Virginia, and Colorado may jump into the mix with bills on these topics with some likelihood of passage this year.
While we won’t know until later in the year, several states will likely have new laws on the books effecting packaging, and the impact is likely to ripple through the flexible packaging industry for several years to come. As these new laws are implemented, increased communication with customers, suppliers, and third-party organizations administering portions of these laws will be critical to ensuring the continued success of the flexible packaging industry.
Andy Hackman is a lobbyist with Serlin Haley, based in Washington, D.C.