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Executive Director's Corner

AMERIPEN Member Highlight


Government Affairs Updates

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April 2020

Executive Director's Corner

I hope this continues to find you and your family and friends all well during the ongoing challenges of the global pandemic. French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr coined the phrase “plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose” – the more things change, the more they remain the same – after the French Revolution of 1848. I have found myself wondering about this over the past month.

Our COVID-19 Resource Center is continuing to thrive and receive good attention by stakeholders curious about the critical role packaging has been playing during the crisis. Thanks to all of you who have contributed or suggested content for the center, and please keep that coming as we continue to expand and improve the resource. Related, AMERIPEN is proud of the things you all have been doing to fight and respond to the virus and take care of your employees and their families during this difficult time. Thank you.

You may recall that last month we announced we were postponing our Annual Summit from the end of next month to November 16-18 in Washington DC. We have decided to shift the Annual Summit by one day – now November 17-19 – so that interested members can fully participate in the annual America Recycles Innovation Fair and Summit held by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that same week in Washington DC. Watch for more information from us in the near future about this change and how you can participate in EPA’s events as well.

While state legislative activity has certainly been slow over the past month, it has not stalled altogether as legislators have begun meeting in new ways to continue discussing and advancing policy. Activity in which AMERIPEN has interest has also picked up at the federal level somewhat. See further below for more information about this state and federal activity and how AMERIPEN is engaging. Also, we hope you can join us for our members-only Advocacy and Lobbying 101 webinar on Friday May 8. You can register here, and watch for an announcement and registration in the near future for another members-only webinar on Friday June 8 focused on federal legislative and regulatory issues.

Membership recruitment has understandably slowed as companies and trade associations have been focused on responding to the virus and with concerns about potential long-term economic impacts. But I am happy to report that we did pick up one new member this month with Ferrero joining us. Please welcome them when you have the opportunity, and I welcome you to reach out to me at any time with thoughts about other companies and associations across the packaging industry value chain who could benefit from membership with AMERIPEN.

Finally, you should have received an email from me recently announcing that we are accepting nominations for the AMERIPEN Board of Directors from April 15 through May 15, with elections taking place via email during the week of May 25 in order for the new Board to be seated by June 1. This is a great opportunity for AMERIPEN members to help guide our direction and ensure that all our stakeholders understand the key roles packaging plays in a more sustainable society, economy and environment as we work together to support packaging-related polices that are fair, effective, cost-efficient and based on science. You can learn more about the Board and download a nomination form here.

Please continue to stay safe and do not hesitate to reach out to me if you want to talk about how we can collaborate for the benefit of you, AMERIPEN and the entire packaging industry value chain. My door is always open and thank you for your support of AMERIPEN.

Dan Felton
AMERIPEN Executive Director

AMERIPEN Member Highlight

Mariagiovanna VetereMariagiovanna Vetere

Global Public Affairs Director at NatureWorks and serves on the AMERIPEN Board of Directors.

Felton: Tell me a little bit about yourself and where you live. Any family with you there?

Vetere: I live in Milan, Northern Italy, a vibrant and cool city. I live there with my husband and two teens – a nice and challenging boy and girl.

Felton: I see you graduated a few different universities with various undergraduate and graduate degrees. Tell me a little bit about that path.

Vetere: Indeed, I have had a quite peculiar course of study. My main focus was philosophy, but along the way I got interested in logic and then it was natural to study math also and the game theory principles applied to economics.  

Felton: What was your first job out of university?

Vetere: I worked as accountant in a software company. After that I worked some years in business consulting and finally in the packaging sector, focusing on recycling and recovery of plastic packaging. 

Felton: How long have you been at NatureWorks and what do you do there?

Vetere: I’ve work at NatureWorks since 2013. I’m in charge of Public Affairs activities at the global level. My team follows the development of packaging and biomaterials legislation around the world and the circular economy and sustainability aspects like LCA, standards, value of composting and recycling techniques.

Felton: What gets you excited about the work you are doing for NatureWorks?

Vetere: After 20 years on the market, NatureWorks is still an innovative company. We produce an amazing set of biobased and compostable polymers that are suitable for several applications in packaging and beyond. With my team we follow many topics and in the context of circular economy we are now working with Sustainable Agriculture and we are committed to certifying the biomass we use for our products. I love the possibility of working on so many different aspects, and to have interactions with so many different stakeholders, from farmers, to composters, from policy makers to NGOs.  

Felton: When did NatureWorks join AMERIPEN, why, and how do we add value to your company?

Vetere: NatureWorks has been a member of AMERIPEN for many years. We value the association for the focus on the sustainability aspects of packaging. I also like the diverse membership of brands, converters, and raw material producers as we work together and share ideas and best practices.   

Felton: You bring a different perspective to AMERIPEN because of your location and your interaction with European policy makers, stakeholders, and trade associations. Obviously, a broad question, but any general thoughts on how the U.S. packaging industry compares to that in Europe in terms of the work you do?

Vetere: I’m not sure I’m able to give you a short answer. Recently I’ve seen many common points, especially when it comes to the single use plastic issues. It seems that policy makers on both sides of the ocean are focusing on plastics and the role of AMERIPEN is going to be more and more strategic when it comes to highlighting the value of packaging and its importance in protecting food.     

Felton: Let us get personal again. How many languages do you speak? Any hobbies we should know about?

Vetere: I speak English, Spanish, some French and a bit of German – I truly feel the European spirit. When I have time, I like to take long walks in the countryside, and I enjoy spending time with my kids.  

Felton: The global pandemic has been particularly devastating for Italy. Anything you would like to share about that?

Vetere: The pandemic is now getting better here but we had to keep a severe lockdown to avoid the collapse of our National Healthcare System. What I see problematic now is the economy, as nobody is really able to tell how and when we will go back to normal. I feel proud of our doctors and nurses that have been working above human limits, and of our kids that are disciplined at home and trying to keep up to speed with school programs. In general, Italians are usually “allergic” to rules and are now living this long confinement with dignity and bravery.

Felton: Finally, something for other AMERIPEN members to investigate with you on their own. Tell me two truths and one lie about you.

Vetere: I visited US for first time in my life in 2013, I play tennis and I’m vegetarian.


Financial Mechanisms Taskforce

As municipalities have struggled over the past two years with depressed commodity prices, interest in industry supporting the financial costs of recycling has grown. According to our lobbyists at Serlin Haley, we currently have at least six state legislatures exploring the concept of extended producer responsibility (EPR) for packaging – industry paying for the costs of collecting the materials they produce.

AMERIPEN’s Financial Mechanisms Taskforce has been exploring potential financing mechanisms for the past five months and will soon be sharing a public document approved by the AMERIPEN Board of Directors with our principles and objectives for industry engagement in financing packaging recovery.

The Taskforce has also presented a few options for financial mechanisms, as well as a list of complimentary policies to potentially accompany those mechanisms. The Government Affairs Committee and AMERIPEN Board will now use the products of the Taskforce as related policy and advocacy strategies are developed and implemented to respond to EPR proposals.

Throughout this process we have tried to collaborate with other industry-led efforts and will continue to look for areas of alignment to emphasize rather than focus on areas of divergence.

State Market Development Taskforce

We launched our State Market Development Taskforce this month. Recycling Market Development Coordinators from four states and two regional associations joined AMERIPEN staff Kyla Fisher and Dan Felton to being discussing ways we might better align the packaging industry’s interest in growing and expanding markets for recovered packaging with their efforts.

An urgent need expressed by this group was the concern that recycling is struggling to keep facilities and collection services open during the COVID-19 pandemic and long term these advisors worry recycling programs may be cut as states and municipalities focus on economic recovery post COVID-19.

As a request from the Recycling Market Development Coordinators, AMERIPEN is seeking testimonials from AMERIPEN members about why our industry needs recyclables and how we must maintain safe community recycling programs. If you are willing to provide a 2-3 sentence testimonial, we will use those as we create some materials for the coordinators to use in advocacy campaigns to protect their programs. Please contact Kyla Fisher: to support this effort.

COVID Resources

We are also in dialogues with USAID and ReFED to explore if there are ways the packaging industry can support the reduction of food waste, including related to the COVID-19 crisis. As commercial vendors have closed due to COVID-19 and farmers are struggling to maintain labor and markets, there is a significant disconnect between available food and people in need.

Repackaging efforts, support for distribution and shelf life extension are all ways the packaging industry can support the redistribution of much needed food and reduce the impact of wasted food. If you would be interested or are already supporting similar efforts, please reach out to Kyla.

The AMERIPEN COVID-19 Resource Center that we announced and launched last month is updated twice a week with new information related to COVID-19 and the packaging industry. If you haven’t already had a chance to review it, please check it out here. If you also have a story to share about your company’s social impact efforts in response to the pandemic, please share as we would love to profile your efforts.

Lastly, AMERIPEN just released an article in Packaging Digest exploring ways we anticipate COVID-19 will change our industry and how we can prepare now for these changes – see the article here.

Goverment Affairs Updates

AMERIPEN Takes Steps to Support Federal Action to Aid Recycling

This past month, as activity at the federal level has increased and due in part to the COVID-19 crisis and bi-partisan agreements, AMERIPEN has also worked to show support and engage in critical federal legislative efforts.

As previously discussed, last year, Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) and Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN) introduced H.R. 5115, the bipartisan Realizing the Economic Opportunities and Value of Expanding Recycling (RECOVER) Act in the House of Representatives. The legislation would allocate $500 million in matching federal grants, over 5-years, to eligible states, local municipalities, and tribal governments to invest in improving their recycling infrastructure, programs, and education efforts.

As a fourth COVID-19 legislative response effort has been under discussion, with an infrastructure investment element, AMERIPEN has been part of an active coalition effort to include the RECOVER Act in that package. AMERIPEN has argued that since recycling systems have been dramatically impacted by COVID-19 market disruptions, this program should be included in COVID-19 infrastructure funding programs. AMERIPEN is also a primary signatory on a coalition letter to key House of Representative members encouraging its inclusion in any infrastructure package.

Similarly, Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) have introduced S. 2941, the RECYCLE Act, which aims to establish U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grants of $15 million annually to help educate consumers about residential and community recycling programs. This month AMERIPEN also voiced strong support for this bill and its inclusion in the next package of funding and policy as a response to COVID-19. AMERIPEN also delivered an individual support letter for this legislation, this month, to sponsors and key Senate members.

Finally earlier this year, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and. Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) introduced companion bills entitled the “Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act”, as S. 3263 in the Senate andH.R. 5845 in the House of Representatives. This is an evolution of federal plastic packaging product stewardship legislation that includes EPR for packaging and a myriad of other requirements to reduce the use of plastic. AMERIPEN also held a virtual lobbying meeting with both Senator Udall and Rep. Lowenthal’s offices, this month, to understand their priorities and express concerns with provisions that are currently unworkable. During this conversation, there was commitment to working together to improve the recycling system and continue to work on problems and key issues.

State Legislative Looking at Special Sessions

MapAs mentioned last month, while 2020 state legislative sessions started with an incredibly high volume of key issue legislative introductions, the COVID-19 outbreak marked a dramatic change in state legislative sessions.

While the majority of states suspended legislative session or temporarily adjourned, several key states have begun to meet remotely or have announced plans to hold special sessions or extend sessions in order to enable policy work to still get accomplished this year.

Additionally, governors continue using executive powers to manage their state shutdowns and manage re-starting and economic assistance. To aid in keeping track of this fast-changing landscape, Serlin Haley has produced an interactive map that you can use to follow these developments. The interactive map is being updated automatically at regular intervals, and the a full-text version can be found in a spreadsheet which also includes a listing of actions taken by governors and key municipalities.

Members looking to stay engaged with AMERIPEN advocacy efforts, as they continue and resume in specific states, can participate in the Government Affairs Committee by contacting Katie Wallstein at:



Environment and energy






Plastics (incl. polystyrene)






Single-use bags


Solid waste




Toxic chemicals




Vermont Legislation still being Considered to Require 2021 Development of EPR for Packaging

Last month, a Vermont bill (S. 227) that was seemingly unrelated to EPR when it was filed in January, has been amended and now includes a requirement that the State’s Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) develop an EPR bill for packaging, for consideration in 2021.

Originally, the bill amended the State’s new statute on single-use plastics to add a section restricting lodging establishments from distributing personal care products to customers in “small plastic bottles.” While it still does create this restriction, the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy amended additional language into the bill via major proposed amendment that was offered in committee that added the expansive mandate for an EPR program for packaging and printed material. The amendment would have the Office of Legislative Council, after consultation with the state legislature, ANR and other stakeholders, draft legislation to implement the program.

This amended version of S.227 was passed by the Committee on Natural Resources and Energy in late March and now sits in the Senate Finance Committee. Vermont has not suspended session due to the coronavirus crisis and is meeting remotely. For the time being the legislature has been focused on COVID-19 response. However, legislative leaders have indicated that the legislature will extend session to work on other issues, and therefore, there is strong potential that this amended legislation could be further considered this year.

California Ballot Initiative & Legislation Still in Play

As AMERIPEN members know, for over a year we have been engaged in advocacy on California SB 54/AB 1080, as well as the California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act of 2020, a ballot initiative that environmental proponents are trying to get placed on the November 2020 ballot.

AMERIPEN has continued to work with other industry players on the bills and discuss the status of the ballot initiative. With the impacts of COVID-19, organizers of the initiative have now publicly said they may kick the measure to the 2022 election, even though they have reportedly now collected the requisite number of signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Meanwhile, SB 54 is still a priority for the author of the bill, Senator Ben Allen. Increasingly, though, industry stakeholders have been discussing continued concerns and efforts to defeat this bill, considering economic stress on the California budget and impacted businesses because of COVID-19. AMERIPEN does still anticipate continued efforts to pass the bill, especially when the legislature begins its traditionally fast-paced schedule in August.

The Oregon Recycling Steering Committee Pauses, but Continues

In Oregon, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) created a Recycling Steering Committee that is working to identify what Oregon’s future recycling system should look like. Before COVID-19, the committee was meeting monthly to discuss changes to the system. That timeline has now been pushed back, with all recycling steering committee meetings have been postponed until May. Even though the committee meetings have been postponed, the DEQ remains committed to having language ready for the 2021 legislative session. Over the next few weeks DEQ will be working on a draft concept that will include some of the current frameworks adapted to the disruptions brought on by COVID-19. The draft will be shared in the beginning of May.

Washington Recycling Steering Committee Continues Work

The Washington Recycling Steering Committee (RSC) was created in response to China’s national sword policy that creates new recycling challenges for the state. The steering committee will offer recommendations to the legislature, recycling program planners, private industry, and the public on changes to the state’s recycling system. The committee met on April 7th to continue the conversation for policy recommendations on recycling in Washington state.

During this meeting they discussed the Plastic Study that was passed in 2019 as SB 5397. The bill directs the state Department of Ecology to complete an independent study to gather data on the amount and types of plastic sold in the state, and the management and disposal of that plastic packaging. They plan on offering recommendations to meet the goals of reducing plastic packaging through industry initiative or plastic packaging product stewardship. The department of Ecology has hired Cascadia Consulting to conduct the study that is to be completed by August of this year. Cascadia has begun reaching out to stakeholders in hopes of interviewing them for the study and AMERIPEN is helping with outreach to some of those stakeholders.

Both the RSC and the Cascadia study under SB 5397 are still on track to deliver recommendations that will shape EPR legislation in Washington in 2021.

Where is AMERIPEN?

April 2

Building the U.S. Plastics Pact Workshop

AMERIPEN Executive Director Dan Felton and Program Manager Kyla Fisher attended via remote access. Several AMERIPEN members also participated. See more information here.

April 7

Washington State Department of Ecology Recycling Steering Committee (RSC)

Andy Hackman with Serlin Haley attended on behalf of AMERIPEN via remote access.

April 14

Washington State Department of Ecology Recycling Development Center (RDC) Advisory Board

AMERIPEN Program Manager Kyla Fisher attended via remote access.

April 15

Recycling Leadership Council (RLC) Speaker Series – ENGO Engagement

AMERIPEN Executive Director Dan Felton attended via remote access.

April 24

Flexible Packaging Association (FPA) and Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Workshop

AMERIPEN Executive Director Dan Felton attended and presented via remote access.


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