Sustainable Packaging Clearinghouse


Overview

Increasingly, consumers, investors, employees, and environmental and sustainability advocacy groups expect manufacturers and retailers to reduce waste as part of their work support a more circular economy. This includes reducing waste associated with product packaging and shipping as well as improving the sustainability of packaging materials (e.g., more recyclable or higher recycled content). In addition, 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.

Resources on relevant legislation and regulations:

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 

 

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.

FMI Communities

Sustainability Executive Committee

  • The FMI Sustainability Executive Committee works to identify and prioritize issues for collaborative action; to develop tools and resources to help move the industry forward faster in implementing more sustainable business practices; and to offer insight and recommendations when needed to FMI leadership and board. Open to retail, wholesale and product supplier members of FMI.

Sustainable Packaging Subcommittee

  • The mission of the FMI Sustainable Packaging Subcommittee is to create guidelines, best practices and resources to support member interests and efforts on plastics and packaging waste reduction. Open to retail, wholesale and product supplier members of FMI.

Government Relations Committees

  • The FMI Government Relations department provides a voice for the food retail industry before Congress and the regulatory agencies and amplifies members’ voices in state capitals across the country. Priority issues include climate change, food waste, recycling and extended producer responsibility among other issues.

  • FMI State Affairs provides resources in the form of studies, research, testimony and regional and national meetings, to FMI member companies and State Associations as they tackle legislative and regulatory issues of importance in the state and local realm. Resources for FMI members include issue papers on a range of topics including plastic bags, and enacted 2021 Environmental/Sustainability State Legislation on request.

FMI Resources

SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING PLAYBOOK, An Industry Guide for Retailers and Suppliers to Advancing Efficient, Responsible, and Circular 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 Fact Sheets and Tracking Matrices

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.

RILA Reports and Articles

Consumer Bag FAQ

The rapid increase in consumer bag legislation has led to varying requirements and specifications across the country

The Waste Landscape & Solutions for Retail Industry (2020)

Provides retailers with information to help them navigate the complex issue of solid waste as they work to find solutions all along their supply chain to reduce and eliminate waste.

Packaging EPR - State Passage and What’s Next

Overview of Maine and Oregon Packaging EPR bills, including what materials are covered what the expected retailer responsibilities and fees are.

RILA Webinars

Implementation of Reusable Packaging Models

Closed Loop Partners and CVS Health discuss the nuts and bolts of what it takes to get reusable packaging off the ground.

Upstream Innovation - Packaging Solutions

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation discusses what upstream innovation is and how it applies to key circular economy strategies, focused on reuse. Guest presentations by Walmart, Walgreens, and Ulta Beauty

A Global Look at Plastic Waste Webinar

Webinar with Beveridge & Diamond P.C. discussing international plastics developments influencing domestic legislation, regulations, and operations.

Retail Donation Programs Webinar

Good360, Feeding America, and Goodwill discuss donation of excess inventory, the state of donation organizations, and key donation info for retailers.

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.

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 Marjorie DePuy for information on FMI programs and resources.

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