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Sustainable Development for Business - Legislation, LAws, and Regulations - US, International, State and Local - Information, Guidance, EPA info, Links & Outlets

Sustainable Development Laws and Regulations

Here are some of the major international, and US laws and regulations regarding sustainable development


Extended Product Responsibility -- a product-oriented approach to environmental protection -- is one of many strategies for moving toward sustainable development. What is unique about EPR is that it challenges multiple players in the product chain to reduce the life cycle environmental impacts of products. Some of the ways companies can do their part include:

  • Designing products that are:
  • made with fewer toxic resources
  • made with recycled content
  • durable
  • easily reused, repaired and recycled
  • Selling a service rather than a product and/or,
  • Taking back products at the end of their useful life.

By applying EPR, some companies are seizing a competitive advantage and realizing important benefits, including reduced manufacturing costs, improved product performance and enhanced customer loyalty.

Below is a snapshot of some of the important international initiatives on packaging. This is by no means a comprehensive listing.

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EU Packaging Directive

The European Packaging Directive currently requires EU member countries to recycle or incinerate for energy recovery 50% of packaging waste starting June 30, 2001. Under the Directive, countries must also achieve a minimum total recycling rate of 25% and recycle at least 15% of each type of packaging material covered by the Directive. Recent working papers from the Environment Directorate of the European Commission recommend revision of the Packaging Directive to be adopted by the European Commission by no later than the end of 2000. The papers present a number of options, all of which have the effect of raising the overall targeted recycling level and the level of recycling required for individual materials. All of these options specify mechanical recycling; feedstock recycling is not allowed.


Most plastic packaging discarded by households in Japan is incinerated. Starting in 2000, a new recycling law will force six times more recycling and reuse of this plastic packaging waste (up from 20,000 tons to 120,000 tons/year). Local governments must collect the discarded packaging; business is responsible for recycling and reusing the materials into saleable products. According to Japanese officials, PET recycling has grown rapidly in Japan since 1997 when PET bottles and cans became subject to mandatory recycling.


The national recycling program for packaging, Eco-Emballages, which currently charges manufacturers a flat fee "per package" to help fund collection and recycling of packaging, will move to a sliding-scale fee based on volume, weight, packaging material and recyclability. The new fees structure is intended to reward packagers that reduce packaging volume and use easily recyclable materials. Under this approach, the charges for some types of plastic packaging go up; other packaging materials, such as paper, will pay relatively less.


Most Canadian provinces have container deposit systems, many of them covering more types of containers than deposit systems in the U.S. Alberta and Saskatchewan have voluntary stewardship programs through which the dairy industry helps cover the costs of recycling discarded plastic milk containers. British Columbia, which already has take-back programs for many household hazardous wastes, may consider a 10% recycled content requirement for non-food plastic containers. Ontario is forming a new "Waste Diversion Organization" that will convene stakeholders to develop voluntary stewardship and takeback approaches for packaging and products. Quebec has a legislative proposal on the table that would require producers to pay for disposal of packaging and potentially other products. However, there has not been action yet on this proposal.

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Below is a sampling of state initiatives relating to packaging. This is not a comprehensive listing; it is just a snapshot of some of the newer developments.


California has recycled content laws for glass, plastic trash bags and rigid plastic containers. In particular, California requires industry to maintain an overall 25% aggregate recycling rate for rigid plastic containers or individual brand owners will face a variety of alternative requirements, including a mandate for 25% post-consumer recycled content. The State found that manufacturers fell short of the 25% recycling rate in both 1996 and 1997. Proposals to amend this law include raising the required recycling rate from 25% to 35% and expanding it to include food and cosmetic containers (it now covers only non-food containers). Language that would have required closed-loop recycling of such plastics has been substituted with approaches that allow open-loop recycling; i.e., manufacturers must demonstrate that they have ensured recycling of a predetermined amount of plastic into other containers or products or have engaged a third party to do so. Action is not expected on the California plastics recycling law until 2000. Drivers behind the legislation include increased use of plastic by the packaging industry (especially for beverages), more complex packaging designs that complicate recovery and the desire to send a message to manufacturers to design for recycling and use post-consumer plastic -- all to help improve markets for secondary plastics and increase the returns to local government for collecting plastics.

California recently expanded its bottle bill to cover non-carbonated waters, teas and juices, as well as the soft drinks and beer containers that have traditionally been covered by bottle bills. The new law still does not cover wine bottles. The bill adds an estimated 2 billion containers to the California bottle bill system (of which about 800 million are plastic).


A bipartisan proposal has been made to strengthen Wisconsin's recycled content mandate for rigid plastic containers. Wisconsin currently requires that rigid plastic containers achieve an aggregate recycling level of 10% in the state or face recycled content requirements (use of pre-consumer industrial regrind counts toward meeting the target). The bipartisan proposal calls for raising the recycling target to 25% for rigid plastic containers and allowing only use of post-consumer plastic to count toward achieving the goal. For more information, please see Assembly Bill 372 at (Adobe Acrobat PDF file)

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A number of cities -- Los Angeles, West Hollywood, New York City and Madison, Wisconsin - have issued or are considering resolutions pointing out potential problems associated with the recycling of newly test-marketed plastic beer bottles and the need for more use of secondary plastic in these containers. Other cities and counties, including San Francisco and Gainesville, are participating in a grass roots campaign to encourage more use of secondary content in plastic beverage containers. For more information on these and other local government initiatives on plastic beverage container packaging, see the Grass Roots Recycling Network Web site at

The City of Austin, Texas has circulated a draft policy statement on extended producer responsibility that, among other things, calls on manufacturers to report on whether their products and packaging can be handled by the City's recycling program, how much recycled content they use and any take-back initiatives they are implementing. Certain distributors and retailers are required to provide information on the recyclability of certain of their products. For more information, contact [email protected].

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Ways to save money AND help the environment:

Eat healthier AND save money: Instant Pot Duo Crisp 11-in-1 Air Fryer and Electric Pressure Cooker Combo with Multicooker Lids that Fries, Steams, Slow Cooks, Sautés, Dehydrates

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Protect your health with these:

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Interesting Reads:

THE PREPPER'S CANNING & PRESERVING BIBLE: [13 in 1] Your Path to Food Self-Sufficiency. Canning, Dehydrating, Fermenting, Pickling & More, Plus The Food Preservation Calendar for a Sustainable Pantry

The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre! Paperback

The Citizens' Guide to Geologic Hazards: A Guide to Understanding Geologic Hazards Including Asbestos, Radon, Swelling Soils, Earthquakes, Volcanoes

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

Book: The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History Paperback

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