NYS Considering Ban on Carbon Black – the Primary Pigment in Black Printing Ink! The Time to Act is Now!

Printing firms operating in New York State need to contact their NYS legislative representatives immediately (visit the PGCA Legislative Action Center to use our sample letter).  Legislative bills S. 4246-B/A. 5322-B, newly amended and making their way through the NYS legislature, will enact several new environmental requirements for companies operating in New York State, if signed into law. While much of the proposed legislation is suspect, perhaps the most concerning element is a ban on the use of carbon black, the primary pigment in black printing ink.  This legislation is aimed primarily at packaging and labels, but there are concerns that it is a “door opener” for a wider ban on additional products.

The introduction of NY S. 4246-B/A. 5322-B in February 2024, aimed at establishing an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) program and prohibiting the use of carbon black, among other things, has raised significant concerns within our industry.  Banning carbon black from printing will create a profound negative impact on the printing and packaging industries, threatening thousands of well-paying jobs and affecting both the production and usage of printed materials.

The printing and packaging sector is a cornerstone of New York’s economy, encompassing approximately 260 businesses that collectively employ over 8,000 individuals and generate a payroll surpassing $400 million. The sector’s output, valued at nearly $2.8 billion annually, plays a pivotal role in the state’s economic landscape. The proposed blanket prohibition on carbon black jeopardizes not only thousands of jobs but also the entire economic activity surrounding this sector.

Moreover, the prohibition on carbon black would severely hamper the ability of manufacturers to print essential information directly onto packaging or labels. This restriction could lead to a significant communication breakdown, preventing critical information such as product identification, ingredients, usage instructions, warnings, manufacturer details, and expiration dates from reaching end-users effectively.

The bill cites toxicity concerns, interference with recycling processes, and issues of ink “bleeding” during recycling as the primary drivers for the proposed ban. However, it fails to recognize several important, science-based factors. Notably, when carbon black is incorporated into inks or used as a colorant for packaging, it does not exist in a form that poses the same health risks as the powdered form. This very critical distinction has been recognized by both the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and under California’s Proposition 65 program but is not recognized in NY S.4246-B/A.5322-B!

Additionally, technological advancements have significantly mitigated concerns related to recycling interference and ink “bleeding,” rendering the proposed ban both unnecessary and counterproductive.

There are additional concerns regarding the process for advancing this legislation.

  • There has been limited opportunity for meaningful stakeholder input or discussion of the merits of this complex legislation. There is limited opportunity for stakeholders to provide public comments and for legislators to consider comments and evaluate the bill on its merits. The legislation imposes a wide ban on the presence of chemicals in packaging without clear environmental or public health justification.
  • Additionally, there is no recognition of “de minimus” levels to account for substances that were not intentionally added, undermining the potential use of recycled content in products.
  • Lastly, this bill also creates a Toxic Packaging Task Force that would recommend additional substances to be banned without a sound scientific basis, creating uncertainty for New York State businesses.

Legislation that rigidly adheres to the current technological landscape without accommodating the rapid pace of innovation risks becoming quickly outdated. It is imperative that the draft language of the bill be revisited to exempt printing inks and packaging materials containing carbon black from the ban. Such a revision would acknowledge the critical distinction regarding the form and use of carbon black, ensuring that legislation does not inadvertently compromise the viability and safety of packaging and printing inks.

Companies concerned about this issue and wishing to connect with their NYS elected representatives can do so at the PGCA Legislative Action Center. It only takes a few minutes to send our sample letter and it is so important. Encourage your staff and business colleagues to weigh in as well. Download our Talking Points for more information.

Contact me with any questions or concerns.

Tim Freeman, Co-President
Print & Graphic Communications Association
(716) 691-3211





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