From labeling laws to refillable containers, sustainability continues to impact the way packagers do business. We’ve looked to the experts, gleaned their expertise, and compiled our picks—packaging trends to look for in the coming year.

Trend # 1: More laws like California’s “Truth in Labeling” will be passed.

Last year, California passed an unprecedented Truth in Labeling for Recyclable Materials law. A similar New Jersey bill was passed into law this January, and New York is expected to follow suit with a bill already on its books. Until now, there has been no enforceable federal standard when it comes to displaying the “chasing arrows” on labels and packaging materials. Expect this to change, country-wide, in the coming years.

Trend # 2: Extended producer responsibility (EPR) will gain more traction.

A concept that sees manufacturers bearing responsibility for the long-term environmental impacts of their products, extended producer responsibility has long been the norm in Canada and Europe—with other countries soon to follow suit. Here in the U.S., with the passage of EPR laws in Oregon and Maine, this level of product stewardship and environmental responsibility is destined to become the standard.

Trend # 3: More companies will commit to removing toxins from their packaging.

From McDonald’s to Home Depot to Amazon, a growing number of companies are phasing out polyfluoroalkyl substances (or PFAS) from their packaging products. With mounting evidence that these, and other chemicals, are finding their way into drinking water, regulatory agencies and consumers are demanding their elimination. An increase in public awareness, regarding both the environment and social equity, is also normalizing this trend.

Trend # 4: Sustainable packaging practices will become more holistic.

The sustainable packaging conversation will shift beyond recyclability—and more toward “low impact.” This means that greater attention will be paid to the front end of a product’s life cycle. Responsible companies will source materials whose environmental impact is low to begin with. Looking to the future, sustainable packaging will factor in smaller containers, plant-based packaging and inks, and lower impact manufacturing processes.

Trend # 5: The use of reusable, refillable containers will continue to grow.

With major organizations like PepsiCo and PG&E supporting returnable, reusable packaging, this trend will continue to expand. Already, from the US to Canada; Europe to Brazil, wholesalers are requesting that retailers bring in containers and have them filled. Even in the realm of e-commerce, waste-free services like Olive and Loop are already revolutionizing the packaging industry. Expect to see more brands embrace this approach in the coming year.

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