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New York Packaging Regulations

Also see US Packaging Regulations

Several states in the U.S. follow rigorous packaging standards for both consumer and product safety.  The parts used to create things like bottles, boxes and bags are monitored at the state level to regulate materials and design that might be of risk.  In New York, a statewide regulation is in place, known as the Hazardous Packaging Law.  Let’s find out more about this and dive into what this law covers with regard to product packaging.

Hazardous Packaging Law

In 1990, New York passed the Hazardous Packaging Law (HPL) according to Article 37 of the New York State Environmental Conservation Law.  This set of regulations is based off of a framework by the Coalition of Northeast Governors (CONEG) and involves the restriction of use of specific heavy metals in both product packaging manufacturing and distribution.  In particular, the HPL limits the use of 4 metals:

  • Cadmium
  • Hexavalent Chromium
  • Lead
  • Mercury

Acceptable Use and Rationale

Acceptable use of these metals has changed since the 1990s. The law allowed for 600 parts per million (or 0.06%) in each package as early as 1992, however that amount has steadily decreased to the current level of 100 parts per million (0.01%) as declared in 1994.The main purpose this law is in effect is safety. There are so many bad things that we throw away every day, and unfortunately, many of us do not recycle.  Thrown away packaging items make up over 1/3 of the waste stream!  In enforcing the HPL, the Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse (the regulating body of all 19 states with toxic packaging laws) is doing its part in reducing the toxicity of New York’s waste stream. In the event that a package containing the above metals is thrown away into a landfill or is incinerated causing gas emissions, it will have a lesser effect on the environment and the population.


  • All packaging manufacturers and product distributors must follow the 100 parts per million rule, with few exceptions:
  • Completed packages or packaging parts delivered to a distributor or manufacturer before January of 1992 are exempt.
  • Packaging or packaging parts with codes indicating manufacture dates before January 1992 are exempt.
  • Packages and packaging parts containing cadmium, lead, mercury or hexavalent chromium for the purpose of complying with federal health/safety requirements are exempted at the discretion of the commissioner.
  • Packages and packaging parts containing cadmium, lead, mercury or hexavalent chromium for which there is no reasonable alternative may be exempted at the discretion of the commissioner.
  • In such cases, the manufacturer must petition the appropriate department in writing, explaining the need for the exemption. If granted, a 2-year renewable exemption is given.

Packaging Violation Penalties

The Hazardous Packaging Law is nothing to mess with, and various penalties are in place for those who dare to violate it. Hefty fines should be expected by any manufacturer or distributor violate the HPL and are as follows:

  • The first offense by any manufacturer or distributor is punishable by a maximum of $10,000.
  • Second and other additional violations will lead to a maximum of $25,000 in fines, per offense.
  • There is one exception to packaging violations. No manufacturer or distributor is held responsible for violations unknown. In such cases, they will not be held in violation if it is possible to show that he or she had the written guarantee of packaging/component compliance from whomever the items were purchased from.

The bottom line is this: regulations regarding heavy metal usage in packaging products exist for a reason.  Consumer and environmental safety are paramount.  It is, of course, necessary to keep exceptions in mind, but the Hazardous Packaging Law should be followed at all costs.  These rules are in effect to protect all New Yorkers.