Could our waste soon be regulated? Will we have more ESG (environmental, social, and governance) policy in the future? Will we have government mandates and sustainable material regulations? A new report gives analysis of past regulatory practices and a newly developed predictive framework.

Lux Research’s new report, Predicting Policy for Sustainable Materials, provides a framework to assess policies based on impact and probability of adoption. The analyst firm evaluated seven policies on the factors of anticipated cost, ease of adoption, international reputation, and how likely a regulation is to spread.

The organization expects the biggest, most likely impacts globally to come from bans on single-use plastics and taxes on unrecyclable plastics. This doesn’t come as a big surprise. In my book, Sustainable in a Circular World, I write, “Environmentalists and individuals are sounding the alarm postulating that if we continue at the rate we are going, by 2050, plastic in the ocean will outweigh fish.” Something needs to be done. Perhaps regulation is something to consider.

Driving down, geographically, Lux expects EPR (extended producer responsibility) policy, though potentially the single most impactful approach to sustainability, will struggle to gain traction outside of the European Union. Lux cites implementation as a major barrier.

Here in the states, Lux expected national-level recycled content mandates and single-use plastic bans most likely, while a national EPR scheme faces major uncertainty in terms of adoption.

China, unsurprisingly, emerges as the nation to watch. A tax on unrecycled plastics is likely and would have major knock-on effects for the entire industry. Just as China’s ban on single-use plastics is fueling growth in bioplastics, a future tax could fuel growth in plastic alternatives, according to Lux.

Certainly, taxation and regulation would add a layer of complexity to sustainability. Either way, businesses need to keep pace with what is required in terms of sustainability. I would argue we need to leverage technology in order to stay ahead of the curve—while also following all the rules and regulations that relate to ESG.

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