Home Sustainable Packaging: Regulatory Scenario

Regulatory bodies in different countries are actively devising schemes to address the growing plastic waste crisis. China’s ban on plastic waste import has further added to the challenge. As a result, government and regulatory bodies are proposing and implementing regulatory amendments to require at least 40% recyclable materials in packaging and implement Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes to hold product manufacturers responsible for using recyclable plastics. This article focuses on mapping the regulatory scenario for packaging and EPR implementation in the developed countries.

Regulatory Scenario for Packaging

Many regulations on plastics are implemented globally, including its ban and additional levy (see exhibit 1.) A few packaging-related regulations also enable the progressive implementation of new materials in packaging solutions.

North America


The US has different packaging policies in different states, encompassing plastic packaging and food packaging, entailing end-of-life recycling programs for product packaging. A few bills introduced in the US related to food & sustainable packaging are:

  • California: New bill imposes a comprehensive regulatory scheme on producers, retailers, and wholesalers of single-use packaging. Implemented from Jan 1, 2020, the new law entails
    • customers should bring reusable containers/cups or pay 25 cents for every disposable cup
    • all to-go containers should be compostable
    • All foodware for customers dining in should be reusable by July (ex. porcelain plates and metal cutlery)
  • Massachusetts
    • Reduction in the distribution of disposable plastic shopping bags at retail business establishments
    • Promoting the use of reusable checkout bags, and recyclable paper bags
    • No establishment to provide disposable plastic shopping bags to any customer for take-away
  • Maine: Ordinance passed to regulate single-use plastic checkout bags to protect the environment
  • New Jersey: Ordinance by Council of Borough of Avalon dictates:
    • Prohibition on use of polystyrene/plastic foam and single-use plastic products
    • Reduces the number of disposable carry-out bags
    • Prohibition on all carry-out single-use plastic bags
    • Enlists acceptable packaging products



  • The EU Waste Framework Directive sets targets for 50% of waste to be recycled by 2020. The regulation places a legal obligation on companies over a specific size, make, or use of packaging to ensure that a particular percent of the packaging placed on the market is recovered and recycled
  • UK parliament has placed targets for paper and plastic recycling provided by the EU Waste Directive; the targets for 2020 are 69.5% and 51%, respectively.


  • Germany implemented Waste Disposal Act and German Packaging Ordinance

Other regions have seen similar bans on plastic packaging and EPR schemes’ implementation to curb plastic packaging distribution and drive the sustainable (recyclable) packaging solutions segment.

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes

Faced with increasing amounts of waste, government bodies concluded that the responsibility for the post-consumer phase of certain goods could be placed on producers. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a policy approach under which:

  • producers are responsible for financial and physical solutions to treat or dispose of post-consumer products’
  • the burden of waste disposal shifted from governments to product manufacturers
  • adoption of innovative product and packaging strategies is driven, leading to reduced plastic waste
  • products’ environmental impacts are distributed throughout the product chain from design to post-consumer phase

Exhibit 2 illustrates the critical countries with EPR policies. Such policies help incentivize the product producers to prevent waste at the source, promote product design for the environment, and support public recycling and materials management goals.

EPR is well-established in most European countries and can be amended further in the coming years. EPR is also widely used to support the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (94/62/E.C.). However, the Directive itself does not impose the policy. Additionally, article 8 of the Waste Framework Directive 2008/98 sets some principles regarding the implementation of EPR by the European Member States.

Implementation of EPR regulations is gradual in Latin America (Mexico, Chile, Brazil) and North America (US). Manufacturers have to pay a certain amount of EPR fees to associated organizations in countries like Japan. China is progressively proposing EPR policies, expected to be implemented by 2025. In India, the EPR laws are loosely established since 2016. These regulations drive the sustainable packaging segment that includes bio-based plastics, biopolymers, and recycled packaging materials.


  1. FutureBridge Internal Database
  2. OECD (2001) Extended Producer Responsibility: A Guidance Manual for Governments, OECD, March, Paris, 164p
  3. Newsletter: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200AB1080
  4. Newsletter: https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/communities/san-diego/story/2019-12-12/san-diego-halting-enforcement-of-controversial-ban-on-foam-packaging
  5. NDRC
  6. UK Parliament Publication

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