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Temperatures may be down, but state legislatures are heating up!

With many states legislative sessions starting back up, I thought this would be a good time to share my ďwatch listĒ with you Ė the top issues that are ones to watch in 2014 as they could have the most impact on the foodservice packaging industry.

 

Extended Producer Responsibility

The concept of extended producer responsibility (EPR) is nothing new; itís been around since the early 1990s in Europe. In theory, EPR programs are supposed to make producers responsible for the costs of managing their products at the ďend of life.Ē Itís presumed that if they are made to pay these costs Ė thereby reducing the financial burden on cash-strapped municipalities Ė manufacturers will better design products to lessen their impact on the environment.

 

EPR programs for packaging have been implemented in a number of other counties (with mixed results, some might argue), but we have yet to see it in the U.S. But for how long? Weíve been tracking this issue for a few years now, and it seems that every year, we see more calls from state legislators for this type of legislation. This year will be no different.

 

In Canada, producers have been dealing with EPR programs for packaging in a number of provinces. But eyes will be up north as change is deliberated: considerations of higher costs for producers already under EPR programs, new provinces looking to implement EPR programs for packaging, and broader reviews of waste diversion strategies at the Federal level.

 

FPIís position on this issue is clear Ė we are opposed to EPR because it is neither effective nor efficient Ė and doesnít achieve the goals itís designed to reach (Want more details? check out these reports from the Product Management Alliance and Grocery Manufacturers Association). Instead, letís consider supporting other strategies that really do help move the needle, such as unit-based pricing/pay as you throw initiatives, disposal bans and recycling mandates. According to AMERIPENís 2013 report,these show the greatest promise to collectively help shift consumer practices away from waste disposal and towards recycling and other recovery strategies. In the meantime, FPIís Paper Recovery Alliance and Plastics Recovery Group will continue its VOLUNTARILY work to increase the recovery of foodservice packaging.

 

Product Bans/Taxes/Fees/Etc.

As a trade association that represents one product (yes, Iím lumping all foodservice packaging together) made from a variety of materials, this could be a tough one for us. But in fact itís really not. Itís pretty simple for us. FPI does not support any legislation that limits the marketplace by implementing bans, or altering the marketplace by adding fees on products, especially just because of the material itís made from.

 

2014 will, I am sure, be no different than previous years where we see introductions of bills attempting to ban polystyrene foam foodservice packaging. I donít care what material you produce or use, this is just a really bad idea. Same thing is true for bans on plastic bags. Ditto Ė bad idea. Why?

 

First, the thinking behind these bans is all wrong. Legislators are often ill-informed and are working on bad information. It is often argued that foam foodservice packaging is filling up the landfills and destroying our roadways and byways. In a recent post, we debunked that myth. The other argument I am seeing more is that legislators must do something because the industry is not. That really ruffles my feathers, as I think about all the time and money FPI, and more specifically the PRA and PRG, have spent so far to find better ďend of lifeĒ options for used foodservice packaging. We need to spend more of our time sharing the facts with legislators and letting them know what we are doing proactively to benefit our industry and Mother Earth.

 

Second, it just sets a bad precedent. Carryout bags is a perfect example: initially plastic bags were the target. A few years later, legislators started including paper in their sights. Today, itís very rare to see a bill that doesnít suggest banning plastic, taxing paper and strongly encouraging the use of reusable bags instead. Youíre crazy if you donít think this could be the future for other single-use foodservice items. Weíre already starting to see hints of this in California at the local level.

 

We, as an industry with a diverse set of products made from many materials, must stick together. We must understand the broader picture and work to keep government out of the marketplace. At least thatís what Iíll be doing this yearís legislative session. Hope youíll join me.

Posted By Lynn M. Dyer (President) | 1/21/2014 9:59:20 AM
 

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