By Elizabeth Tansing, Vice President, State Government Relations, FMI
When Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970, the intent was to bring awareness about environmental issues. Today, the terminology we use has evolved into “sustainability” issues. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that “sustainability” is based on a simple principle—that everything we need for survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment.
While April is associated with Earth Day, those in the state government affairs world also associate it with the wind-down of many state legislatures and a flurry of end-of-session activity, including on sustainability legislation.
In the first four months of 2023, FMI has seen the introduction of hundreds of sustainability bills across the nation. These include bills to prohibit per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, polystyrene foam packaging, single-use plastics and to create extended producer responsibility policies. Bills were also introduced regarding recycling solid waste and toxic chemicals. We have a matrix available of currently pending state sustainability legislation.
There are also ongoing rulemaking efforts in states that have enacted sustainability legislation, such as extended producer responsibility (CA, CO, ME, OR, WA); PFAS (ME, VT) and phthalates legislation (WA).
Because of the complexity of these issues, FMI has joined Ameripen, which is a coalition related to packaging and the environment. FMI also has a Sustainability Executive Committee, a Sustainable Packaging Subcommittee and has recently created a State Affairs PFAS Working Group. This working group has contributed expertise to state association partners who have written comments on rulemaking for Vermont’s S.20 (Act 36), on packaging and PFAS, and rulemaking on Maine’s Chapter 90, products containing PFAS and PFAS substances.
The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 committed the United States to sustainability, declaring it a national policy, “to create and maintain conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.” Much has changed in 54 years. While FMI’s member companies strive to improve their environmental footprints and are eager to work with state lawmakers to do so, legislatures must do this in a way that meaningfully improves sustainability without sacrificing food and product safety or results in packaging changes that have unintended consequences.
If you are interested in engaging with FMI on state-level sustainability advocacy initiatives through our committees and working groups, contact me at email@example.com.