While packaging is often necessary to protect products, everyone in the industry is looking for ways to reduce waste and overpackaging. This goal is complemented with efforts to make packaging more sustainable with renewable and recyclable materials. The quest for sustainability unites big brands with responsible consumers and – regulators around the world.
In recent years, governments have responded to public concerns by devising rules that seek to tackle packaging waste – single-use plastics in particular – and improve recycling and waste management systems. Many of these new norms will become effective in the next years, creating a worldwide regulative trend that can help promote more sustainable packaging.
Here’s a quick look into what various countries are currently doing to reduce packaging waste and how this affects companies and consumers.
France aims to phase out single-use plastic
France has set the goal to recycle 100% of plastics by 2025 and phase out single-use plastics by 2040.
Plastic packaging for nearly all fruit and vegetables will be prohibited from January 2022. In addition, publications can no longer be wrapped in plastic for shipping, fast-food restaurants can no longer have plastic toys, and the public spaces must provide water fountains to reduce the use of plastic bottles. Plastic straws, cups and cutlery, and styrofoam takeaway boxes have already been banned in 2021.
Any business that sells cross-border to consumers in France needs to register their packaging with a French recycling scheme. Under the French packaging law, companies pay less for their recyclable packaging.
China elevates its plastics restriction to ban
The “plastics restriction” policy introduced by China in 2007 as part of efforts to tackle pollution was upgraded to a “plastics ban” in 2021.
All single-use plastic products such as non-degradable plastic bags, disposable plastic straws, disposable plastic tableware and ultra-thin plastic shopping bags will be prohibited in the country. A five-year roadmap is laid out to restrict the use of plastic products such as shopping bags, straws, and utensils by 2020, 2022, and 2025, respectively.
In addition, the fast-food industries, e-commerce, and express delivery companies are required to recycle packaging materials and reduce their usage under a revised law that came into effect in September 2020.
New York becomes third US state to enforce plastic bag ban
New York’s statewide ban on single-use plastic bags has been enforced since October 2020. From January 2022, no covered food service provider or store will be allowed to sell, offer for sale, or distribute disposable food service containers that contain expanded polystyrene foam in New York.
However, alternatives are allowed as long as they do not contain polystyrene foam. The authorities encourage the use of reusable, recyclable, and compostable items, source reduction and items made using recycled content where possible.
India taking steps to promote biodegradable alternatives
A ban on single-use plastics announced by the Indian central government will take effect in July 2022. In addition, plastic packaging waste must be collected and managed in an environmentally sustainable way through the Extended Producer Responsibility of the Producer, Importer, and Brand owner (PIBO).
At the same time, the authorities have promoted biodegradable alternatives to plastics. Many food vendors, restaurant chains and local businesses have already started using biodegradable tableware and switching plastic bags to cloth or paper alternatives.
Italy’s new mandatory environmental labelling is coming into effect
Italy is one of the first EU countries to oblige manufacturers to inform consumers about their packaging’s material composition and end of life. The purpose of this mandatory environmental labelling is to facilitate the collection, reuse, and recycling of packaging. Producers and suppliers have until June 30th, 2022, to comply.
Meanwhile, Italy’s plastic packaging tax is now expected to come into effect in January 2023. The tax was first introduced in 2020 but has been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is aimed at single-use plastics, such as bottles, bags and food containers made of polyethylene, tetra packs, packaging made from expanded polystyrene, rolls of bubble wrap plastic and plastic caps. The tax will affect a wide range of businesses, including Italian manufacturers, purchasers and sellers of plastic items as well as importers of goods from non-EU countries.
However, recycled plastics and compostable biodegradable plastics are set to be exempt.
Australia sets ambitious packaging targets for 2025
Australia aims to phase out single-use plastics and reach ambitious recycling goals under the 2025 National Packaging Targets. These require that all packaging must be 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable, 70% of plastic packaging is recycled or composted, and 50% of average recycled content is included in the packaging. These targets will be applied to all packaging that is made, used, and sold in Australia.
6 out of 8 Australian states and territories will phase out various types of single-use plastics by 2022 and 2023.
Is your goal to create eco-friendly packaging for your product? Check out these 5 steps of ecodesign.