- November 30, 2005, Sheila A. Millar Attorney-at-Law, Keller & Heckman, Washington, DC
Packaging innovations continue to offer consumers more convenience and better product protection, while also providing eye-catching ways to focus on customers’ brands and products. Yet business challenges remain that will affect members of the converting industry and their customers around the world. As 2005 comes to a close, we review below a few selected legal and regulatory developments likely to have an impact on the converting industry.
International Chemicals Management. Internationally, work continues toward a High Level Declaration on a Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). The SAICM initiative is an outgrowth of the summit on sustainable development held in Johannesburg in 2002 under the auspices of the UN. The goal is to adopt a framework by 2020. Key objectives for the business community include assuring that any instruments adopt risk-based approaches for chemical management, avoiding reflexive application of precautionary principles and without creating new international bureaucracies. Protection of confidential information and intellectual property also must be assured by national and international chemical control systems.
REACH. Europe has taken another step toward a new regime governing the regulation of chemicals in the region. On November 17 the European Parliament adopted the European Commission’s proposal for Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH). The scheme will cover an array of chemicals, including additives, inks, and dyes. Polymers continue to enjoy an exemption under the approved proposal and intermediates are partially exempted, but the system likely will result in cost increases in some instances and the potential disappearance of ingredients in others. Though intensive lobbying continues on the proposal, entry into force is expected to occur in 2007. This highly complex proposal will create a new regulatory system for chemical approvals in Europe, which will have enormous implications for downstream customers and users.
Toxics in packaging. Closer to home, states in the US continue to focus on heavy metals in packaging through consortiums such as the Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse (TPCH). States are stepping up enforcement and coordination in dealing with products they consider to violate their rules. Recently, for example, a dietary supplement product was recalled under these laws because the packaging included a battery-powered flashing light. Lead solder was used in the battery, a violation of restrictions on the intentional introduction of lead. California’s Proposition 65 requires that products bear a label if they contain substances known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity in excess of the state’s “no significant risk” level. The role of the states cannot be forgotten, an important lesson for global producers.
Energy. The devastating aftermath of this year’s hurricane season and rising oil prices worldwide have raised alarm bells about energy shortages, leading to some renewed attention to both identifying new sources of oil and improving energy efficiency, as well as some calls for action on climate change. Efforts to gain approval for drilling in the ANWAR region have failed, and economic growth in China and India is creating new competition for existing oil supplies, which will affect both price and availability. With the US opposed to the Kyoto treaty while remaining a major consumer of energy, it is likely that energy use, energy efficiency, and climate change will remain significant subjects of international debate.
Active and intelligent packaging. A major area of development will continue to be the use of active and intelligent packaging to enhance product safety and help identify product tampering or contamination. Some say regulatory barriers exist in this area in markets such as the EU, suggesting legislative change may be needed. Much thought should be given before opening up existing regulatory regimes.
These are only a few of the issues likely to affect the business community in general and the converting industry in particular in 2006.