Packaging News Alert: Self-Serving Data Endangers Legitimacy and Use of 40% PCW Content Legislation.

The Rise of Self-Serving Data: A Growing Problem in The Packaging Industry.

Self-serving data refers to claims or “guarantees” issued by best parties, such as paper mills that are selling paper; converting mills that are selling packaging; and governments that are supporting or subsidizing commerce for export. Each of these official bodies can issue documents/letters asserting the 40% PCW content of shopping bags, as an example, which when tested by “third-party” accredited labs in the USA yields different or inconclusive results.

Self-Serving Data: Cost-Efficient? Ethically and Environmentally-Sound?

Many retailers might opt to take the opportunistic path and rely on misrepresented or inconclusive data, to comply with the 40% PCW content legislation. With this approach, these retail professionals might be basing their buying decisions on documentation and/or test results that do not fully comply with current bag laws. Although more expedient and cheaper, are these decisions ethically and environmentally sound?

Arbitrary? Subject to Local-First Politics? Enforcing the 40% PCW Content Law Is A City-By-City, County-By-County Task, with No Input from the Feds.

We at ModernArts have spoken with code enforcers in locations in CA, where the 40% PCW content bag ordinance is in effect (approximately 23 cities in 6 counties in California are currently governed by this law). We have learned that in fact code enforcers inspect retail stores for compliance (they check required stamps at the bottom of bags). If the stores are found in violation, the code enforcer issues a warning and re-inspects the store within 7-125 days, to insure compliance. If the store is still out of compliance at that point, then the code enforcer petitions the city or county where the store is located for a citation, which if approved, is then “served” to the individual store. These citations carry fines (up to $100/day) and deadlines, which vary from city to city and county to county. NO FEDERAL REGULATIONS EXIST TO STANDARDIZE THIS PROCESS.

The Eco-Aware Solution by ModernArts

Reusable Cotton, Jute or Hemp Shopping Bags, which can be washed and reused for a long time, may be the possible answer to addressing both environmental concerns and distorted data. In lieu of paper bags carrying a fee of $0.10-$0.25/bag, our solution would put cotton, hemp or jute bags at the forefront.


Your life as a retail professional has changed drastically! The legal issues affecting shopping bags are complex and have serious economic consequences. Let us assist you in navigating this potentially fine-ridden area! Please contact ModernArts at 518.828.6800 with your packaging needs, questions and concerns. Reuse, Reduce, Recycle —Re-Imagine with ModernArts.