Overview

Some states are starting to pass Extended Producer Responsibility statutes and other legislation to reduce waste, help build recycling infrastructure and improve recycling rates. To provide retailers and other relevant stakeholders with current targeted resources related to sustainable packaging, RILA, in partnership with FMI, The Food Industry Association, have created the below Sustainable Packaging Clearinghouse. This Clearinghouse highlights sustainable packaging-related policy, guidance, and trends. Have a suggested resource or edit? Contact kaela.martins@rila.org.

Legislation

State regulations to reduce and manage waste including single-use plastic bans, fees on certain plastics and packaging, and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs continue to be proposed and/or passed.

Single-Use Plastic Packaging Reduction Laws

Single-Use Plastic Packaging Reduction Laws

Summary of state-level single-use plastic packaging restrictions across the U.S.

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EPR Packaging Bills Introduced to States

EPR Packaging Bills Introduced to States

An overview of recently introduced state EPR packaging legislation.

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Mandatory Recycled Content Laws for Packaging

Mandatory Recycled Content Laws for Packaging

Summary of state mandatory recycled content laws for packaging, carryout bags, and trash bags.

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Packaging Guidance

Several organizations have developed resources on sustainable packaging and guidance to help retailers achieve their circular economy goals. The table below includes some of the most common and relevant sustainable packaging guidance. This is not an exhaustive list or an endorsement of the listed organizations.
 
Organization Resource Summary Packaging Type Sustainability Focus

American Forest and Paper Association 

Design Guide for Recyclability – a resource for paper-based packaging designers 

Guide for members of the paper-based packaging manufacturing supply chain to use in designing and manufacturing packaging to meet customers’ needs in terms of recyclability. 

Paper 

Recyclability

Association of Plastic Recyclers 

APR Design Guide for Plastics Recyclability  

Helps package designers measure each aspect of a package design against industry-accepted criteria to ensure that it is truly recycling compatible. 

Plastics 

Recyclability

Association of Plastic Recyclers 

Upstream Innovation: a guide to packaging solutions 

Practical guide to help retailers innovate towards achieving their circular economy goals for packaging. Provides tools, facts and case-studies on how to take action on upstream innovation. 

Plastics

Elimination, Reuse, Upstream Innovation

Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Reuse - rethinking packaging 

Framework to understand how different reuse models work as well as implementation challenges. Focuses on business-to-consumer (B2C) packaging applications. 

Plastics, steel, aluminum, glass, paper 

Reuse

Ellen MacArthur Foundation

The Plastics Learning Pathway 

Learning modules to expand understanding of the circular economy for plastic packaging. 

Plastics

Recyclability, Elimination, Reduction, Recycled Content, Reuse, Compostability 

FMI

Sustainable Packaging Playbook: An Industry Guide for Retailers and Suppliers to Advancing Efficient, Responsible, and Circular Packaging

Guide to assist retailers and their suppliers in better understanding key approaches and considerations recommended to advance toward efficient design, responsible sources, and circular systems for packaging. This resource can be a tool to support internal business operations as well as effective trading partner collaboration to advance sustainable packaging.

Plastics, Paper, Glass

Elimination, reduction, recyclability, recycled content, reuse

GS1

US Guideline for Sustainability in Packaging Materials 

Provides actions to decrease the resources used in packaging and shipment of apparel and general merchandise  from suppliers to retailers, retailers to consumers, and suppliers to consumers. Also provides ideas for reducing waste inherent in the use of plastics, and packaging costs, and meeting trading partners’ overall sustainability objectives. 

Polybags, cartons 

Elimination, reduction, recyclability, recycled content, reuse,

GS1

Design for Recycled Content 

Guide that supports brands and suppliers who are looking to incorporate recycled content in packaging. Provides practical recommendations for strategy and decision making by outlining existing challenges, illuminating areas of opportunity, and dispelling myths about recycled content.

Plastics, Paper, Paperboard, Corrugate, Glass, Aluminum, Steel 

Recycled content

GS1

How 2 Recycle – Guide for Recyclability 

Guidance about what recyclability means, and how the How2Recycle program assesses recyclability on a package-by-package basis. 

Plastics, Paper, Paperboard, Corrugate, Glass, Aluminum, Steel 

Recyclability

SPC

Polybags in the Fashion industry: Evaluating the Options 

Comprehensive overview of the environmental issues surrounding polybags, relevant considerations around system improvements and material choices, and constructive guidance for brand owners, retailers, and their supply chain partners seeking to improve the environmental profile of their system of polybag usage. 

Polybags (on product)

Elimination, Reduction, Recycled Content, Reuse 

SPC

Sustainable Packaging 101s 

 

Brief articles on the basics of a variety of core concepts in sustainable packaging.  

Plastics, Paper, Bioplastics, Food, Compostable, Transport and More

Compostability, Recycled Content, Recyclability

SPC

SPC Goals Database

Collection of public industry commitments aimed at improving packaging sustainability. 

Plastics, Paper, Paperboard, Corrugate, Glass, Aluminum, Steel 

Recyclability, Elimination, Reduction, Recycled Content, Reuse, Compostability 

​​The Recycling Partnership

Plastic IQ 

Tool to help retailers use less plastic, redesign for reuse and recycling, and be part of a circular economy. Analyzes user data to help retailers calculate the circularity of their plastic packaging. 

Plastics 

Elimination, reduction, recyclability, recycled content, reuse, compostability 

Walmart

Walmart Sustainable Packaging Playbook 

Supplemental guide for retailers setting recyclable packaging and recycled content goals. Provides guidance and ideas for optimizing packages that are potentially recyclable and changing packages that are not recyclable or advancing development to get to a circular economy solution. 

Plastics, Paper, Paperboard, Corrugate, Glass, Aluminum, Steel

Recycled content 
Recyclability  
Reuse 

​​World Wildlife Fund 

ReSource 

Tool that helps retailers measure and publicly track the progress of their plastic mitigation efforts, and use these insights to inform the interventions and actions that will maximize impact.  Plastics  Elimination, reduction, recyclability, recycled content

RILA and FMI Resources

Below are resources that RILA and FMI have developed that touch on sustainable packaging.

RILA Communities

Zero Waste Network

Professionals convene to advance management throughout their supply chains to improve diversion & explore collaboration to a more circular economy.

Sustainability Committee

Retail sustainability/CSR executives meet twice per year, plus monthly via conference call, to share leading practices and network.

RILA Resources

Single-Use Plastic Packaging Reduction Laws

Summary of state-level single-use plastic packaging restrictions across the U.S.

Beverage Container Deposit Legislation

Summary of state bottle deposit return legislation in the U.S.

EPR Packaging Bills Introduced to States

An overview of recently introduced state EPR packaging legislation.

Mandatory Recycling and Disposal Bans Fact Sheet

Overview of state-level recycling regulations and commonly recycled materials such as paper, plastic, metal and glass.

Consumer Bag Legislation Summary Matrix

Summary of consumer bag legislation by state and local jurisdictions, including bans, fees, and specifications for different kinds of allowable bags.

Product Stewardship Matrix

Summary of state product bans, EPR and product stewardship legislation for products such as carpet, batteries, electronics, paint and more.

FMI Communities

FMI has a variety of committees and subcommittees related to sustainable packaging. For a full list click here.

FMI Resources

SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING PLAYBOOK, An Industry Guide for Retailers and Suppliers to Advancing Efficient, Responsible, and Circular Packaging

RILA and FMI’s Involvement in Sustainable Packaging

FMI and RILA are members of the Recycling Leadership Council and Recycling Infrastructure Now, a coalition dedicated to encouraging policymakers to make investments needed to upgrade our nation’s aging recycling infrastructure.

RILA is a member of the Recycling Partnership’s Circular Economy Accelerator, which works to solve the challenges facing the U.S. residential recycling system through consensus building and informing and advocating for attainable policy and legislative solutions that rapidly advance the circular economy.

FMI is a Founding Activator of the U.S. Plastics Pact, which will create a unified national framework for a circular economy for plastics, creating structure, coherence, aligned targets, and associated reporting. The food industry is committed to package waste reduction with 41% of FMI members reporting that they already have clear objectives and implementation timeframes in place for package waste reduction and another 34% working on them.

Contact Andy Harig, Vice President – Tax, Trade, Sustainability & Policy Development for information on FMI programs and resources.

Related Sustainable Packaging Resources

Consumer Bag Legislation Summary Matrix

Summary of consumer bag legislation by state and local jurisdictions, including bans, fees, and specifications for different kinds of allowable bags.

Read More

Mandatory Recycling and Disposal Bans Fact Sheet

Overview of state-level recycling regulations and commonly recycled materials such as paper, plastic, metal and glass.

Read More

Beverage Container Deposit Legislation

Summary of state bottle deposit return legislation in the U.S.

Read More

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