Achieving Clarity in Defining Packaging Materials and Management Processes
In order to improve clarity and alignment around definitions of packaging materials and management processes, AMERIPEN has introduced a new resource called “Packaging Materials Management Definitions: A Review of Varying Global Standards.” Achieving a common understanding of key terms is essential. As more brands work toward ambitious 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable goals tied to packaging attributes, understanding how those attributes are defined – and how they affect validation of claims – is instrumental.
Across the U.S., there are 18 different definitions of recycling – and even more globally. Understanding of what is meant by key terms – including “recyclable,” “reusable,” “compostable,” “renewable” and “recycled content” – informs how goals are set and results are measured, influences policy creation and drives the application of regulations. These terms also affect material and design strategies.
“As our vision of a circular economy grows – and along with it the proliferation of definitions related to reuse, recycling and composting – there’s increasing uncertainty about which definitions take precedence,” said Ron Cotterman, AMERIPEN Treasurer and VP of Corporate Innovation and Sustainability at Sealed Air. “The AMERIPEN guide spells out very clearly the legal hierarchy of definitions when it comes to policy and regulatory implications. This resource is an invaluable tool for anyone seeking to understand the origin and applicability of key terms related to packaging materials management goals and processes.”
The AMERIPEN guide reviews and compares global frameworks put forth by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and others. The document provides a detailed, side-by-side comparison of definitions for common packaging attributes and processes.
Differences between definitions can create trade and marketing obstacles when one jurisdiction’s definition differs from another’s. For example, materials deemed recyclable in one location and not in another can have a negative effect on trade and drive consumer confusion. For these reasons, definitions related to packaging materials management must be interpreted consistently.
“As packaging materials management issues become increasingly global, there is a push to harmonize practices and leverage existing legal frameworks to help manage material flows,” said Lee Anderson, AMERIPEN President and Director of Issues Management and State Affairs at General Mills. “Awareness of the context influencing various definitions will bring us closer to an understanding of what common principles should define how we manage packaging materials.”
AMERIPEN represents the North American packaging value chain by providing public policy makers with fact-based, material-neutral, scientific information. AMERIPEN is the only organization exclusively focused on U.S. public policy for the entire packaging industry. We advocate on behalf of the entire packaging value chain – from material producers, to brand owners, to recycling partners – before state legislatures and collaborate with stakeholders to advance the packaging industry’s public policy objectives. Our mission is to lead the packaging industry through advocacy based on science and enhance understanding of the role packaging plays in a more sustainable society, economy and environment.