Congress Takes on Packaging

A lot of our clients are in packaging. Packaging machinery really needs the combination of precision and power that Rexroth specializes in. Naturally, packaging companies often use Rexroth drive and motion control systems.

But packaging has been a hot button issue recently.

Packaging has disrupted supply chains during the pandemic, as food service packaging has has to be replaced with retail packaging. Greater awareness of racial inequality has required brands to update their packaging. And climate change, reflected in the wildfires and hurricanes and extreme weather in general that we’re dealing with, is adding urgency to environmental responsibility.

Now Congress has stepped in. There are five bills currently being considered in Congress that relate to packaging.

HR 5115: The RECOVER Act

The “Realizing the Economic Opportunities and Value of Expanding Recycling Act” or the RECOVER Act calls on the EPA to create a Recycling Infrastructure Program. This program could give out $500 million in matching grants for state, local, and tribal governments working on improved and expanded recycling.

We have to admit that recycling has some issues, and environmentalists want to see manufacturers make real changes in the packaging materials used, rather than shoring up ineffective recycling programs with government funds.

Still, funds for consumer education and innovative technology could make a difference in communities over the long term even as those communities benefit from the matching grants in the short term.

S2941: The RECYCLE Act

Another bill with a cute acronym, the “Recycling Enhancements to Collection and Yield through Consumer Learning and Education Act of 2019” or the RECYCLE Act also calls on the EPA to provide grants to improve community recycling programs.

This one focuses firmly on consumer education, and requires the EPA to develop a “model toolkit” for local and tribal governments to use in education programs. The focus of this act is to reduce contamination of recyclables collected from homes. This should make recycling efforts more successful and more cost-effective.

S1982: The Save Our Seas Act

This bill establishes a Marine Debris Foundation to do fundraising for NASA’s Marine Debris Program, as well as a Genius Prize to encourage innovation in technology to replace plastic with biodegradable materials or to “reduce overall packaging needs and promote reuse.”

S1982 has 19 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle, and has in fact passed the Senate.

HR3969 is the House version of the bill. It has 44 cosponsors, both Democratic and Republican.

HR7228: “Plastic Waste Reduction and Recycling Act”

The “Plastic Waste Reduction and Recycling Act” has no cute acronym and only 6 cosponsors.  Its goal is to create a Plastic Waste Reduction and Recycling program that will help the United States meet the standards of other countries when it comes to plastic packaging.

The idea is that the U.S., which currently doesn’t have the strict requirements for plastic packaging seen in the European Union, for example, will become more competitive in the plastics industry through research and development of less-damaging plastic packaging. With less waste, stronger standards, and better recycling, the U.S. could take a leadership position in global plastics — another goal of this bill.The plastics industry supports this legislation.

S3263: Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020

This bill makes the producers of packaging (including things like fast food cups) responsible for curbside recycling programs. It also adds regulations covering the percentage of recycled material that must be used in packaging, the end of single-use plastics like fast food utensils, and labeling that discloses the environmental details of packages.

This bill is supported by environmentalists, but not by the plastics industry. HR5845 is the identical bill in the House.

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