Sustainable packaging regulation at the federal level not budging, future of the regulations

By Ravyn Cullor

- Last updated on GMT

Ameripen is a trade associating advocating for the entire packaging supply chain on sustainability regulations and issues. © Getty Images - Artfully79
Ameripen is a trade associating advocating for the entire packaging supply chain on sustainability regulations and issues. © Getty Images - Artfully79

Related tags Sustainable packaging circular beauty sustainable beauty Sustainability Packaging

States across the US are enacting sustainable packaging laws, but Ameripen is also clocking increased dialog and stagnant action at the federal level.

CosmeticsDesign spoke with Dan Felton, executive director of packaging trade association Ameripen, about what's happening at the federal level and what the cosmetics industry can expect to see in sustainable packaging regulation next.

Before reading this article, readers can brush up on what sustainable packaging regulation is happening at the state level in this CosmeticsDesign article​.

Tell me about the kind of transition from state-based regulation into federal regulation.

There's a lot more conversation happening at the federal level, but right now, there's nothing moving at the federal level. As typical, the states are the incubator for ideas, and then at some point, they may gain critical mass. 

All these concepts ... gaining traction at the state level have been introduced into legislation in Congress, but nothing has moved yet. But we're not seeing movement on those, in part because of the political makeup of Congress and the administration, but we're seeing more dialogue around it. 

Time will tell whether we see producer responsibility getting movement at the federal level. There's a lot of discussion happening at the federal level about recycled content requirements, but nothing's really moving. The one we're most interested in right now is the labeling issue. There is also legislation at the federal level that contemplates labeling requirements. 

But our trade associations are looking to see if we can actually get something done at the federal level on this labeling issue because it's going to become a problem if we have six, seven, eight states with different requirements for labeling on their books. We see that is a good opportunity to get something done at the federal level.

What it would mean for the federal government to be more active in regulating these issues?

In some ways, they're already regulating packaging for some of these products, and a lot of cosmetic products are already regulated at the federal level because they have to go through FDA requirements, for example. 

There is some argument to be made that it does make sense for some of these products to be regulated more uniformly at the federal level, and that certainly will help companies who are selling their products, as most do here in the US, not limited to one state like California. 

It's going to be difficult for companies to do the right thing if they've got multiple states giving them their opinion on what they think the right thing to do is. Even if you step back and look at definitions, like what is recyclable, what is recycling, we've got definitions spread throughout the whole country on that, because recycling really has been something that the federal government has given over. 

That means we have a lot of different requirements and with packaging producers now being required to make sure their products are recyclable, we could use some more standardization at the federal level.

What do you see as the next step in sustainable packaging regulation?

We're starting to see within these discussions at the state level on reusable and refillable. Some within the cosmetics and beauty industry are looking into that and testing products, but it already is becoming law.

California has requirements for producers to reduce the amount of original virgin material and reduce the amount of packaging you're putting out onto the market. One way to do that is for companies to shift to reusable and refillable packaging. 

I expect in the next couple of years that conversation is going to take off even further here in the United States. It will be interesting to see how that plays out because it's an example where companies are exploring it and policymakers see there's an opportunity to push the envelope.

What can beauty brands and personal care brands do to prepare for these types of regulations that are coming around the bend?

First and foremost as the industry is seeing things come online, just be informed about it. If you haven't heard about producer responsibility for packaging in the United States, you need to do a little reading up on it because it's here now.

The other thing I'd like to say is it's not too late to get involved. These are extremely complicated laws that are coming out around producer responsibility. This is new for packaging and admittedly packaging is extremely complicated if you think of it as a product. 

Just because these laws are enacted doesn't mean they're done. They're going to go through implementation, they're gonna go through rulemaking, and there are opportunities for brand owners and manufacturers to be involved in that process to have a seat at the table. 

Candidly, we haven't heard a whole lot out of the cosmetics industry as this has been percolating in the United States for two years. There's a great opportunity for the industry to roll up its sleeves and try to get a seat at the table as not only the new laws are implemented, but as additional proposals appear over the next few years on these issues. 

Make sure to pay attention and get involved in working with state and local legislators if you have the ability to do that to help shape your destiny, if you will.

Is there anything else that you want to add or anything important that you feel we might have missed?

We're at a precipice right now in the United States with all this activity around packaging, recycling, recovery and sustainability. We're not done yet, by any means. There's going to be a whole lot more going on over the next couple of years and as these new laws are implemented, it's sort of a new way for companies to operate here in the United States. 

I just hope folks will get engaged in paying attention and ask questions if they're not sure what's happening or don't understand how it may impact them. But make no mistake, it will. I don't mean to be a dandy downer here, but it's definitely a new impact that companies are going to be seeing if they haven't experienced it in other countries.

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