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Proposed Changes to EPA’s Safer Choice Standards Includes Packaging Requirements

External photo of EPA headquarters

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced several proposed changes to its Safer Choice Standard. Among the proposed changes are provisions to strengthen sustainable packaging requirements that the Agency explained were made in “response to consumer demand and innovations in packaging materials and technologies.” The proposed changes concerning primary packaging are listed below.

  1. It must be either recyclable and contain a minimum level of post-consumer recycled content OR be reusable. If the primary packaging cannot meet this requirement, an exemption can be requested.
  2. Product labels associated with primary packaging may not affect recyclability and the proper recycling method(s) must be clearly indicated on the packaging.
  3. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and all bisphenol-based chemicals would be added to the list of ingredients that may not be intentionally introduced into primary packaging material.

Comments on the proposed changes are due by January 16, 2024. While EPA has requested comments on all aspects of the primary packaging requirements, the Agency also posed the following specific questions: 

  1. Are the proposed minimum post-consumer recycled content levels feasible for primary packaging made of plastic, glass, metal, fiber (e.g., paper or cardboard), or for other sustainable materials? If not, what levels would be feasible? How should EPA consider multi-material packaging? 
  2. Is it reasonable for EPA to require that the entire product primary packaging be recyclable? If not, what is an appropriate minimum percent of recyclable material? 
  3. Is it reasonable for EPA to require both a minimum recycled content and package recyclability? What are the challenges to achieving both simultaneously? 
  4. In finalizing its criteria, should EPA consider concerns for contaminants that may be intentionally added and/or unintentionally introduced into recycled materials? At what point should testing occur?

EPA will be hosting an informational webinar on December 19, 2023, on the proposed changes.