New Year, New Legislative Priorities

2019 is already off to a quick start for issues impacting the foodservice packaging industry. A new Congress has been sworn in, most state legislatures have gaveled in, and cities have stepped up their attention to packaging issues. While things are moving quickly, FPI is also responding to these new challenges internally. We are excited to announce the following activities:

I am excited to be serving as FPI’s Director of Government Relations. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any issues or questions you may have. Additionally, we are working to build strategic guidance on when and where we engage. Furthermore, we are engaging with our members, affiliates and industry coalitions to build consensus and educate on these critical issues.

While all of these exciting internal developments are occurring, the world is still rotating and FPI continues to engage and track critical issues impacting our industry. Now is a good time to provide a quick update.

Overall, we have seen an increase in state legislative activity over previous years. Many states are attempting to address issues impacting polystyrene, straws, cutlery, fluorinated chemicals and complete extended producer responsibility programs. Often times, and unfortunately, these policies are manifesting as complete bans of items in the marketplace, despite a reliable and affordable alternative being available. While the industry attempts to respond to these issues, operators are left without clear understanding of the ban and/or without a potential alternative for their businesses.

Specifically, to-date in the United States, we have seen a majority of the activity in Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Washington. Though we are expecting by the end of the of the month to see increased legislative activity in the more traditional states, like California, as they work their budget issues. FPI is actively tracking these issues and engaging when appropriate. A common theme this year is that many states have introduced legislation addressing the various aspects of foodservice packaging, e.g. a straw ban, a cutlery ban, plastic bag ban and potentially an EPR (or study committee). We have seen this in Maine and Washington. In those examples we are confident we have not seen a final bill or proposal as the sponsors attempt to combine these issues into a comprehensive piece of legislation. We anticipate having a much clearer picture of the proposals by March 1. In the states we have, so far, seen 32 percent of legislative introductions related to bag issues, 15 percent related to polystyrene, 23 percent related to product bans and 7 percent related to green chemistry issues. This will change as the sessions continue to evolve.

With my addition to FPI’s team, I look to engage deeper into Canadian policy issues at the local and provincial level. Specifically, we have seen many municipalities in the Newfoundland and Labrador province pursue product bans. These bans have caused the province to explore potential policy issues that would apply to the complete province. These issues are being discussed in a policy committee now, and we expect specific policy actions later this year.

At the local level, many cities have taken action recently, while others continue to move forward on regulating foodservice products. Some of the larger municipalities that have acted recently have pursued policy issues that are above and beyond any type of regulation we have seen in foodservice packaging. Some examples of this is Berkley, California, which mandated that all products must be reusable and imposed fees on others. Additionally, Santa Monica, California mandated that products be “marine degradable” without much guidance to what that actually means. The activity level among local governments has been vast, and the issues have moved quickly.

capitolFPI is excited to engage deeper on government relations issues and advocate for a free and open marketplace available for all foodservice packaging products. Stay tuned for another blog post recapping the legislative sessions later this year. For more information on legislation and regulation that may impact the foodservice packaging industry, be sure to sign up for FPI’s Legislative and Regulatory Updates (available for FPI members only).

Brian Sernulka
Director of Government Relations
(703) 343-0789

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