Cardboard box with products inside wrapped in plastic bubble wrap.

Packaging Reduction and Recycling

The Issue

We have a packaging waste problem. Roughly one third of all household waste is packaging. Think plastic wrap, cardboard boxes, plastic containers, bubble wrap, and foam containers. Most of this packaging is completely unnecessary. Even worse, the majority of packaging material is unrecyclable plastic that is coated with toxic chemicals. And those chemicals can leach into our food and cosmetics.  

Right now, companies have no incentive to reduce packaging, remove toxic chemicals from packaging, or redesign packaging to be reusable or recyclable. Instead, they focus on making packaging as cheap as possible.

Why? Because these companies don’t have to pay or take responsibility for the packaging waste they create. We do. Local governments and individuals are responsible for dealing with the expensive and complicated task of trying to recycle or dispose of all this waste. But this doesn’t make sense. Local governments and individuals have no control over how companies design packaging, how much packaging they use, and whether the packaging is recyclable or not. As a result, even though consumers, cities, and towns, try their best to properly dispose of all this packaging waste, only a fraction of it is recycled.

The Model Bill

Enter producer responsibility for packaging. This model legislation aims to make companies responsible for the packaging waste they create. The law, if passed, would help reduce the amount of packaging waste created, increase recycling rates, and provide the necessary funding to develop reuse systems.

Here’s how it works:

  • First, each company that sells or distributes its products in packaging is required to participate in the Packaging Reduction and Recycling Program. While the program is overseen by the state environmental agency, it is carried out by the newly created Packaging Reduction Organization. Under this program, companies will pay fees based on the amount and type of packaging they use. The money from these fees goes towards reimbursing local governments for the costs associated with managing packaging waste. The money will also fund investments into programs and systems that decrease packaging waste through reduction, reuse, and recycling.  
  • Second, each company must meet packaging reduction requirements. They can meet these targets by eliminating excess packaging, redesigning products to be less wasteful, or switching from single-use packaging to reusable or refillable packaging. In addition to reducing packaging, companies will also need ensure that the remaining packaging meets specific recycling rates.
  • Third, the law bans the use of certain toxic substances in packaging. What’s more, the law will create a regulatory system for banning new toxic substances over time.

Progressing Toward a Zero Waste Future

With packaging reduction and recycling laws, we can say goodbye to packaging waste and hello to a more sustainable future. This law will fix our broken, disjointed approach to managing packaging waste by creating a more fair and sustainable system funded by the companies responsible for all this waste in the first place. What’s more, this law will require these companies to reduce their packaging waste and redesign their products to be reusable, recyclable, and toxic-free.

Be a part of the solution. Download our model bill today and contact your state representatives about introducing the bill in your state this legislative session.

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