As the European Union is experiencing a sharp rise of its packaging waste, with an all time record of 188.7 kg per capita, the European Commission has responded with a proposal for Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR). Among its goals, this proposal aims to:

  • Prevent the generation of unnecessary packaging waste: reduce it in quantity, restrict overpackaging and promote reusable packaging solutions;
  • Make all packaging on the EU market recyclable by 2030;
  • Reduce the need for primary natural resource use and create a well-functioning market for secondary raw materials (notably plastics).

In this regard, the PPWR offers a necessary pathway to reverse the trend of an ever more material and carbon intensive packaging sector, while creating real economic opportunities for truly circular businesses. This is absolutely crucial if we are to decrease the rapid increase in pulp and paper demand, which is creating havoc in forests across the world, from Europe, to Brazil and Indonesia.

Where’s the catch?

Lobbying started – strongly. An industry worth €355 billion across the EU – the packaging manufacturing industry – has fully mobilised its resources to weaken the European Commission’s existing ambition, by introducing derogations in the text throughout its legislative process in the EU institutions. The first targets? The Environment Committee of the European Parliament. Both the rapporteur, Frédérique Ries, and other prominent MEPs in the Committee have met with industry lobbyists and introduced changes proposed by them. 

This has introduced the risk of the PPWR focusing on material substitution, as packaging manufacturers have identified a business opportunity to increase the overall production of paper packaging, by shifting from plastic single use packaging to paper single use packaging. As we know, 3 billion trees are already cut down every year for paper packaging alone. Packaging is also a major driver of virgin resources exploitation, using 50% of all paper in Europe and 40% of all plastic. These are enormous, staggering numbers that we should not accept if we desire to have healthy and biodiverse forests now and in the future. That is why a coalition of environmental NGOs has teamed up to fight for a more ambitious PPWR and debunk lobbying myths that can be found in this FAQ

What’s next?

The proposed regulation was approved in the Environment Committee (ENVI) by a very small majority on October 24. In November, all members of the European Parliament will choose either to provide a credible solution to the packaging waste crisis by supporting reuse targets (art. 26) and tackling unnecessary packaging (art.22 & Annex V), or they will surrender to the aggressive lobbying of the single-use packaging industry.

If these two articles are passed:

1) Restaurants will not be allowed to serve meals in single use packaging or plates when customers eat inside. Real plates and cutlery should be used when customers dine in. It just makes sense!

2) Sectors will have binding targets for reuse and refill by 2030 and 2040 for packaging. These could be improved but the existence of this article is, in itself, a victory!

We’ll need the entire movement of forest conservationists, plastic and paper campaigners, and reuse businesses to be fully mobilised to debunk the industry lies and show, loud and clear, that reduce and reuse are the winning strategies to successfully tackle the daunting and increasing amount of packaging waste we are generating every single year. Will you join us?