New year, new Congress, and it’s quite a different group after the elections.
With our aluminum foil advocacy, the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA) is a newly minted federal lobbyist organization with yours truly now duly registered. And we will make the most of it as the work continues on the trade front and circularity issues.
FPA reached out to 27 U.S. House districts for FPA members and both U.S. senators in 18 states—as well as the governors for those states—to advocate for a successful resolution to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s self-initiated circumvention case against aluminum foil producers in South Korea and Thailand. The outcome is still in question as of this writing. But with outreach to supply chain industry partners—distributors, end users, and suppliers of other materials to foil laminated packaging—we joined together to develop and articulate positions we believe have set the stage for a more focused response by the Biden administration that does not penalize foil converters in the U.S. for a product they must import.
The 118th Congress will need to do more on behalf of the industry. As we are facing unfair trade actions, we are also facing unfair condemnation from some policymakers who do not understand the many values of packaging, including plastic and multi-material flexible laminates, such as those that use foil.
The industry is constantly innovating to better protect products with the least amount of packaging, such as preserving food with formfitting packaging and superior barrier protection, safeguarding products’ sterility with multi-material flexible packaging, and delivering e-commerce goods in pouches instead of corrugated cardboard that requires additional dunnage. However, many lawmakers only equate recyclability with circularity. As flexible packaging is the “carbon solution,” FPA needs to continue the conversation about its sustainability benefits.
With four new extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws in the U.S., several proposals for labeling for recyclability, a myriad of toxicity regulations targeting per- and polyfluoro-alkyl substances, and at least one bill that would have banned plastic packaging altogether, the headwinds continue. And federal intervention seems inevitable. We need a harmonized approach to EPR instead of a 50-state solution. We cannot label products differently for individual states regarding recyclability. And there will be serious negative environmental consequences with banning flexible packaging based solely on current infrastructure for recycling or a misguided approach to toxics control. Thus, while we invest in innovations to make packaging recyclable and compostable, we must continue to impress upon our law-makers—old and new—that flexible packaging is the solution. Investment in modernizing the U.S. recycling system is the answer to plastic pollution.
This will take a federal approach.
So, bring on the freshmen—FPA can’t wait to inform.
Alison Keane, Esq., IOM, CAE President and CEO
Flexible Packaging Association