A plastic bag full of plastic waste.

Plastic Packaging

Plastic production requires the use of chemicals of high concern and is responsible for a significant percentage of toxic chemical releases to the environment. 50% of all plastics produced are used for single-use purposes. Humans are estimated to inadvertently ingest a credit card worth of plastic every week. For more information about single use food service ware, please see the Single-use Food Service Ware section.

Proposed procurement goals: 
Public policy:
  • Introduce bans on throw-away packaging products. A variety of these bans exist–from the California and New York state bans on disposable hotel toiletry containers, to bans on disposable cups at government facilities in Scotland and cities in Ireland.
  • Support Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws and regulations that include strong toxics reduction goals and implement packaging material fees (see Maine model below)
  • Ban single-use plastic and place a 10-cent fee on single-use bags
  • Prohibit outdoor balloon releases
  • Prohibit the sale and use of all balloons 
Stretch goals: 
Case studies and resources:
  • For more information on plastic packaging policies see RPN’s Supply Chain Plastic Packaging Reduction Project
  • Maine: Governor Mills signed LD 1541 into law, making Maine the first state in the nation to pass an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) law for packaging in response to a steady increase in packaging materials, including those from online retail, that is driving up costs for local cities and towns. The new law is expected to increase recycling rates, reduce packaging pollution, and save taxpayers money.
  • Natural Resources Council of Maine: At least 500 brand owners that do business in Maine already participate in Canada’s recycling programs through EPR for Packaging.
  • Natural Resources Council of Maine: Map of countries/ provinces with EPR packaging laws
  • Laws to eliminate or reduce plastic bags are on the rise
  • State of Washington, May 2021: The governor signed Senate Bill 5022, which will reduce plastic pollution in Washington by banning certain expanded polystyrene foam products (colloquially, Styrofoam), such as coolers, packing peanuts and food service products such as hinged clamshells, plates, and cups.
  • Portland, OR, June 2011: The city issued a Request for Proposals (RFP 112644) for Electrical and Electronics Supplies that asks vendors about the packaging they plan to use to deliver products to the City. This bid solicitation document states: Describe the delivery packaging, and the recyclability thereof, that will be used for the proposed products. Specifically address a) Packaging materials used (cardboard, plastic film, hangers (metal or plastic), etc.) b) Recycled content of packaging materials c) Recyclability of packaging at City facilities (NOTE: the City does not have the capability to readily recycle Styrofoam, molded plastics, or plastic film) d) Whether packaging is taken‐back by your firm (as part of delivery services) for reuse or recycling.
  • Seattle, WA, Portland, OR and several municipalities in Canada have promoted the use of reusable totes in their contracts. RPN
  • Seattle, WA: Seattle and Gateway partnered to develop a reusable cart for equipment deliveries and storage. The cart holds up to 24 computers, eliminating the need for packaging such as cardboard, polystyrene, and plastic wrap. The cart is not only easy to use, but its efficient design helps save storage space. The cart is also used to return old computers to Gateway at their end‐of‐life as part of the City’s asset recovery program.
  • Maryland: Where an EPA CPG does not exist for a product category, that product must contain a minimum of 30% post-consumer recycled content or 50% total recycled content.