State Legislatures Continue Work on Packaging Laws

As we hit a midpoint in the state legislative year, various proposals have taken shape. With elections in November, states are feeling pressure to pass legislation on packaging. A continued concern exists about plastic pollution and toxins in the environment and interest in policies to address them via bans and extended producer responsibility (EPR). 


Legislators introduced EPR for packaging bills in 10 states. The bills varied, and some are dead for the year.

In Minnesota, Senate File 3561 and House File 3577 moved quickly, and they were expected to become law after this article went to press. 

In New York, Senate Bill 4246A and Assembly Bill 5322A are sponsored by the chairs of each chamber’s environmental conservation committees. These bills set aggressive source reduction, recycled content, and recycling rate mandates and create a convoluted process where an Office of Inspector General is created to oversee the producer responsibility organization (PRO). 

In New Jersey, Senate Bill 208 and Assembly Bill 2094 are similar to their New York counterparts. All single-use packaging products would have to contain at least 75% post-consumer recycled content by January 25, 2027, and all such products would have to be easily recyclable or compostable by January 1, 2030.

In Washington, the legislature tried to pass a comprehensive EPR bill for the fourth time with House Bill 2049. The bill would have required that all “producers” of consumer paper and packaging products participate in an EPR program that would have been a PRO-driven process in conjunction with the state ecology department’s oversight. This bill was heavily contested by various stakeholders, especially waste haulers, and failed to pass when the legislature adjourned in early March.

In Hawaii, lawmakers failed to get a packaging EPR needs assessment bill through the legislature. The needs assessment would have been conducted by the health department and due to the legislature by December 1, 2027. The bill stalled in the state Senate Ways and Means Committee. 

Labeling Regulation

Additionally, states are considering proposals to regulate what recyclable and labeling claims can be carried on packaging. 

In Maine, language was considered in Legislative Document 295 that would have adopted a California-style Senate Bill 343 recyclable labeling rubric, which would likely prohibit many current recyclability claims for packaging sold in Maine. However, key industry players aggressively opposed this language. As a result, the Maine bill was amended to only require the state Department of Environmental Protection to do a study of state labeling programs by February 15, 2028. This language became law on April 2, 2024.

In New Jersey, state Sen. Bob Smith introduced Senate Bill 224, which would prohibit the sale, distribution, or importation of products with “misleading claims about recyclability.” Products displaying recycling symbols are otherwise considered deceptive unless they are actually recyclable. This bill will likely see significant action.

Packaging Material Bans

California and Rhode Island are again considering bills that would ban the use of certain materials like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polystyrene in packaging. 

In California, Assembly Bill 2761 is a reintroduction of a toxics-in-packaging bill from last year. This bill bans per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS), PVC, and polyvinylidene chloride in plastic packaging by January 1, 2026. The California legislative session runs until August 31, 2024. 

In Rhode Island, House Bill 7619 and Senate Bill 2850 would modify the state’s existing PFAS ban (§ 23-18.13-4) in three significant ways. First, it would delay until January 1, 2025, the current deadline for removing intentionally added PFAS from food packaging. Second, it would introduce new bans, as of January 1, 2026, on packaging made of either PVC or polystyrene. The bill would be delayed until July 1, 2027, a provision under which PFAS in processing agents and mold release agents would be considered to constitute “intentionally added” PFAS if any PFAS is detectable in the final product. This legislation is expected to pass in some form, and industry advocates are trying to preserve the good parts of this bill and prevent negative material bans. 

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.