August 16, 2021 | Compostable Packaging, Policies + Regulations

Predictive Framework Helps Assess Future Packaging Policies

Top: Seattle Public Utilities’ single-use ban on disposable plastic straws and utensils.

Lux Research, a provider of tech-enabled research and innovation advisory services, released a new report, Predicting Policy for Sustainable Materials, to assess policies based on impact and probability of adoption. Lux evaluated seven sustainability policies on the factors of anticipated cost, ease of adoption, international reputation, and impact to gauge how likely a regulation is to spread. “The evolution of the regulatory landscape is not a simple thing to forecast, as political and economic factors play a huge role in determining outcomes,” explains Anthony Schiavo, Research Director at Lux Research and lead author of the report. “This challenge is further complicated by both murky understanding of the science on the part of the legislators who are typically responsible for major regulations and the wide range of possible outcomes that could be viewed as ‘sustainable.’”

Lux expects the biggest, most likely impacts globally to come from bans on single-use plastics (such as the City of Seattle example shown in the top graphic) and taxes on unrecyclable plastics. Extended producer responsibility (EPR) policy, though potentially the single most impactful approach to sustainability, will struggle to gain traction outside the European Union, as implementation remains a major barrier. In the U.S., national-level recycled content mandates and single-use plastic bans are most likely; a national EPR scheme faces major uncertainty in terms of adoption, although it would be impactful. Clients should instead look to state-level adoption of EPR as the most likely outcome.  (Maine and Oregon both recently passed EPR laws related to packaging.)

China, “unsurprisingly,” emerges as the nation to watch, according to the Lux report. “A tax on unrecycled plastics is likely and would have major knock-on effects for the entire industry. Just as China’s ban on single-use plastics is fueling growth in bioplastics, a future tax could fuel growth in plastic alternatives.”

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