Setting theGuardrails

Regulatory Consistency

To help efficiently manage operations and support continued growth, manufacturers, retailers, restaurants, and other businesses prioritize consistency, clarity, and certainty.

To promote a uniform regulatory landscape, ARPBA advocates for policy that preserves clear, consistent, and certain regulations of packaging products and materials.

Without these important guardrails, packaging regulations can shift from community to community. As a result, businesses face operational difficulties from disrupted logistics, curtailed access to economies of scale, and general confusion about which products are legal or not. For small businesses, these challenges are particularly acute. Put together, the disruptive nature of patchworks of competing local packaging regulation increases costs for businesses that ultimately burden consumers via higher prices.

Massachusetts provides a compelling example of the importance of policies promoting regulatory consistency. Across the Commonwealth, there are more than 150 local ordinances regulating plastic carryout bags. Among these, there are at least nine separate standards for what constitutes an acceptable bag, which can vary within the same county. There are also at least four separate standards for the fees/taxes businesses must charge consumers. In addition, there are also a substantial number of varying local rules around other products like takeout containers, beverage bottles, cups, straws, stirrers, lids, and other packaging.

Advocacy Map

Further, since most advocates of packaging regulation push these policies to address environmental or sustainable concerns, uniformity statutes ensure that any regulation is made at a statewide level. Since environmental concerns are rarely limited to a single municipality, these policies increase stakeholder engagement on the issue to ensure policy addresses the needs and concerns of a broader set of communities.

As of 2022, 34 states have adopted statutes that reserve the right to regulate carryout bags to their state legislatures. The majority of these are statewide uniformity laws for auxiliary containers statutes, which reserve the right to regulate carryout bags and other packaging, generally referred to as “auxiliary containers” to the state.

While ARPBA opposes carryout bag regulations and does not believe they advance sustainability, 11 of the 12 states to adopt statewide restrictions include uniformity provisions. The prevalence of policy guaranteeing uniform regulations across the marketplace—adopted by Republican and Democratic legislators alike—underscores the deleterious impact local patchworks have on businesses. The only state with carryout bag regulations that do not provide this important, clarifying protection is Colorado.