Packaging industry urges EU to reinforce circular economy proposals

The European Union (EU) has been urged to establish a long-term ambitious policy framework to ensure that the circular economy package preserves sustainable growth and enshrines a full life-cycle approach, in a list of policy recommendations set by 36 packaging value chain industry associations.

The cross-sector coalition of major consumer goods brands, packaging and material producers and extended producer responsibility (EPR) organisations has called upon the EU Council and Parliament to safeguard the free movement of packaging in the Internal Market and set realistic packaging recycling targets among a raft of policy proposals.

Commenting on the joint statement, signatory EUROPEN’s chairman Martin Reynolds said: “Our proposals aim at reinforcing the current EU policy framework, preserving the environment and re-launching European competitiveness, quality jobs and sustainable growth.

“Packaging plays a central role in a circular economy by optimising resource use and minimising product waste. We call on the EU to recognise its cross-sectoral function by preserving a full life-cycle approach in legislation, since packaging is intrinsically connected to the product it contains and its value chain.”

Circular package

The joint industry recommendations specifically urge the EU to ensure that the circular economy package strengthens the legal framework for EPR for used packaging; and avoids creating an obligation for Member States to introduce new reuse systems in markets where EPR and recycling systems are well-established.

Moreover, the alliance urges the EU to set realistic and achievable packaging reuse and recycling targets based on known starting points, as well as a harmonised and clarified measurement point and calculation methodology. The group suggests that Internal Market protections would prevent the need for national reduction quotas or national bans for certain packaging types – actions which would allegedly create trade barriers in the EU.

EUROPEN managing director Virginia Janssens said: “Safeguarding the Internal Market is essential to give companies in the packaging value chain the confidence to invest and innovate to meet the environmental, growth, and competitiveness objectives of the Circular Economy Package. We must avoid measures that could lead to divergent national packaging design requirements, as these would create de facto trade barriers for all packaged goods.

“Instead, we need a robust, evidence-based European framework that sets ambitious yet realistic targets, is based on a harmonised calculation method and enables operators to build on over two decades of success in growing packaging recycling rates through efficient, transparent and fair EPR schemes.”   

Closed-looped systems

Due to the implications for value chains and its environmental footprint, packaging is regarded as key priority material that needs to be focused on in the transition to a circular economy. Businesses are pushing innovative new methods to create closed-loop systems for packaging, with food processing and packaging company Tetra Pak leading the way in this regard.

Earlier this month, refinery and chemicals giant Total launched a new range of recyclable polymer packaging made from at least 25% recycled household waste from Western Europe, as part of the companies pledge to embed closed-loop models in its production phase.

Soft drinks giant Coca-Cola has called on global governments and regulators to ignite a ‘cultural shift’ towards closed-loop business models – a transition that will only be possible if policymakers take a ‘leap of faith’ to back the circular economy.

George Ogleby

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