CHINA – Foreign cosmetics and personal care brands face sanctions by Shanghai authorities following a recent anti excessive packaging inspection swoop on retailers by the city's quality watchdog, the Quality and Technical Supervision Bureau, and failed checks for over packaging.
The inspections took place at branches of Carrefour, Lotus, Century Mart and Hualian GMS with 105 batches of cosmetics being checked by Bureau officers, of which 22 batches including brands such as Olay, L'Oreal and Nivea failed packaging checks.
Under China’s Excessive Packaging Regulations, cosmetics, food and beverage packaging is regulated to no more than three layers of packaging material and the ratio of head-space is limited to no more than 50% of the total volume of the product.
According to the Shanghai Quality and Technical Supervision Bureau, the cosmetics on the shelves were found to exceed the amount of permitted empty space in the packaging: Six batches of Olay cosmetics produced by Procter & Gamble in Guangzhou and sold at local outlets of Lotus, Century Mart, Hualian GMS and Metro were found to be over-packed, while a batch of L'Oreal products made in Suzhou and sold at an outlet of Carrefour Shanghai was also guilty of the same problem. Some Garnier and Chando cosmetics also contained excess amount of empty space in its packaging.
In addition, a batch of black Kraft chocolate and Shinetien candies were among those that failed the checks out of the 63 batches of candy products checked by the bureau.
The supermarkets found to be in violation of the regulations have been instructed to withdraw the products found to have unnecessary packaging or face a fine of up to US$8,064 (50,000 yuan) per product unit displayed.
China’s Excessive Packaging Law
As the only country in the world to have a specific ordinance to prevent over packaging of products and reduce packaging waste at source, China’s Excessive Packaging regulations are an amendment to the Law on the Promotion of Clean Production and were signed into law on June 1, 2012 by then-President Hu Jintao.
During the design process of products and packages, enterprises should “take into account what influence they will exert upon human health and environment and give preferred consideration to plans that use packaging in a non-poisonous, harmless, degradable and recyclable way” according to the amended law.
The regulation, which currently applies only to cosmetics, food and alcoholic beverage packaging, references several ‘mandatory standards’ which set formulae for the restriction on the number of layers, ratio of void-space in relation to the product contained with various products (such as biscuits and cakes) having different criteria.
The regulations also establish an acceptable ratio of product cost to packaging cost, although this provision has yet to be implemented.
Under China’s complex legal system, provinces and municipalities are permitted to set their own local regulations governing the implementation of national laws, providing that they do not dilute the Beijing rules.
As reported HERE, in January 2013 the Shanghai Municipal Authority passed its own set of supplementary restrictions, the Regulation to Reduce Commercial Packaging, intended “to curb the growth of excess packaging and reduce the overall waste produced by businesses and households.” These regulations mirror the national ‘mandatory standards’ definitions of excessive packaging, but allocate local inspection authorities and penalties for infringement.
The local ordinance was introduced following a survey of Shanghai citizens to determine attitudes towards excess packaging and the environment. The survey revealed that 30% of all household garbage in Shanghai comprises discarded packaging, half of which has been deemed to be Excessive Packaging, which carries an estimated annual national production cost of US$65 billion (RMB 400 billion).
90% of the people polled thought that the bill should be passed in order to "save resources and protect the environment," as well as citing health concerns, while approximately 80% of those surveyed identified festival gifts and food gifts as the worst examples of excess packaging.
The city concluded that the public awareness of this issue indicates a growing tendency for citizens to care about and want to participate in environmental protection.
Under the Shanghai regulations fines of up to US$8,064 (50,000 yuan) can be imposed on retailers found to be in violation – not on brand owners who may be manufacturing in another province outside the jurisdiction of the Shanghai courts.
For more detail on China’s Excessive Packaging Regulations see here.