Washington State has banned PFAS in four specific types of food packaging derived from plant fibers. This ban will become effective in February 2023.

SAFEGUARDS | Consumer ProductsNO. 029/21

 SG 02921 Pizza box

In 2018, the governor of the U.S. state of Washington signed ESHB 2658 into law to regulate perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in food packaging (SafeGuardS 42/18). According to the definitions in the law, food package means ‘a package or packaging component that is intended for direct food contact and is comprised, in substantial part, of paper, paperboard, or other materials originally derived from plant fibers.’

The law, recodified as RCW 70A.222.070, authorized the Department of Ecology (DOE) to conduct an alternatives assessment and publish its findings by January 1, 2020. The ban on PFAS in food packaging will become operative on January 1, 2022 if the DOE determines that there are safer alternatives available for specific food packaging applications. If the DOE does not find safer alternatives for some or all categories of food packaging, it must review and report on alternatives starting January 1, 2021 and annually thereafter. The prohibition of PFAS in specific food packaging applications will become effective two years after safer alternatives are available in the findings and they have been submitted to the Legislature.

In February 2021, the DOE published its ‘Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances in Food Packaging Alternatives Assessment’ and submitted ‘Safer Alternatives to PFAS in Food Packaging’ to the legislature. The alternatives assessment report found that safer alternatives are available for four specific applications – food boats, pizza boxes, plates & wraps, and liners (Table 1.).

Entry Application Safer Alternatives
1 Food boats Clay-coated and reusable options
2 Pizza boxes
Uncoated options
3 Plates
Clay-coated and reusable options
4 Wraps and liners Wax-coated options

Table 1. Safer alternatives identified for specific food packaging applications

The DOE did not complete the alternatives assessment by January 1, 2020. It will develop on the information from the first alternatives assessment and commence another alternatives assessment for six remaining types of food packaging:

  • Bags and sleeves
  • Bowls
  • Clamshells
  • French fry cartons
  • Interlocking food containers
  • Trays 

By submitting the alternatives assessment report to the legislature, the prohibition of PFAS in four types of food packaging derived from plant fibers will become effective in February 2023. Highlights of this are summarized in Table 2.

Substance Scope Requirement Effective Date
PFAs

The following food packaging made, in substantial part, from paper, paperboard or other materials derived from plant fibers

  • Food boats
  • Pizza boxes
  • Plates
  • Wraps and liners
Prohibited
February 2023*
*This effective date is slightly more than one year after the date listed in RCW. 70A.222.070 

Table 2

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