State Debates Will Challenge the Flexible Packaging Industry

State Debates Will Challenge the Flexible Packaging Industry

The year 2023 will be another precedent-setting one in terms of how much legislation will be introduced, but it is also a long year following the 2022 elections where Democrats had some notable gains at the state level. 

In the past two years, we witnessed some of the most spirited debates on recycling and packaging policy in decades, and state policymakers continue to focus specific attention on plastic pollution. Since 2021, we have seen four states pass extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws for packaging, and two states have passed recycled content mandates for certain types of packaging and products. This trend shows no sign of stopping.

States are looking at a precedent. Notably, California passed the Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, signed into law in June. California is the first state to mandate source reduction of plastic and drive the elimination of the amount of plastic sold into California.

Colorado became the third state to pass EPR in the U.S., and this system establishes that the recycling system will be controlled by the producers of products and packages and mandates that it is 100% funded by the producers.

Here are some packaging policies to follow:

•             Washington state: In 2022, EPR bills did not move forward, and new legislative champions will spearhead refreshed EPR conversations in 2023. Those

state legislators are Rep. Liz Berry and Sen. Christine Rolfes. They introduced expansive legislation that includes EPR for packaging, labeling requirements for recyclability, a bottle bill, and post-consumer recycle mandates for multiple different types of plastic products and packaging.

•             New York: Following a strong push for EPR for packaging in the state senate in 2021 and 2022 and inclusion in the governor’s executive budget in 2022, efforts for EPR in 2023 are underway. Additionally, labeling bills and recycled content requirements are emerging as potential issues to be addressed in the legislature.

•             New Jersey: EPR legislation from 2022 will carry into 2023, and the state senate and assembly environment committee chairs are leading those debates.

•             Minnesota: Several counties are taking the lead on EPR legislation.

•             Maryland: Following productive work in 2021 and 2022, key stakeholders are hopeful that EPR legislation can offer a collaborative model for addressing EPR for packaging.

•             Connecticut: The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is continuing past work to push forward EPR for packaging.

While we won’t know until later in the year, several states will probably have new laws on the books, and the impact is likely to ripple through the flexible packaging industry for several years.  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 viability of the flexible packaging industry for years to come.

Lauren Aguilar is a government affairs associate at the firm Serlin Haley, a lobbyist for the Flexible Packaging Association based in Washington, D.C. Andy Hackman also is a lobbyist with Serlin Haley.