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Europen urges industry and regulators to adopt sustainable packaging report

By Rory Harrington , 06-Jul-2010

A new report laying out vital building blocks for the development of sustainable packaging could be hugely significant but only if industry players and regulators adopt and implement its findings, said trade body Europen.

Julian Carroll, managing director of the European Organisation for Packaging and the Environment (Europen) called on companies and regulators alike to embrace the study from the Global Packaging Project (GPP) which sets out for the first time common definitions and systems of measurements on sustainable packaging.

The initiative, undertaken as part of the Consumer Goods Forum Sustainability Pillar, will only work if firms and rule-making organisations make it part of the way they do business, said Carroll, echoing the “call to action” for industry by the report authors.

“It is a significant report because it brings together major players throughout the packaging value chain who have agreed a common definitions and measurements”, said Carroll. “But we will have to wait and see what it is going to do, based on the extent it will be put into use.”

He added that it was a “wonderful tool” but said its success would depend on the degree to which companies adopted and the definitions and metrics and used them when communicating with their partner and customers along the supply chain. A further advantage is that business can use the information in the report to not only communicate more effectively with each other, but also with consumers, said Carroll.

The report – A Global Language for Packaging and Sustainability - was compiled by 84 stakeholders. The global coalition includes leading packaging manufacturers and converters such as Tetra Pak and Amcor, manufacturers such as Unilever and Nestle, industry groups such as Europen and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and giant retailers like Walmart and Tesco.

Industry and regulatory support

Carroll added that another key step would be its adoption by regulators, which would underline their acceptance as the industry standard. He said the willingness of France to delay implementation of the so-called Grenelle Law until after the GPP delivered its report showed a willingness for industry and government to work with the partnership. The Grenelle law, adopted in July 2009 by the French National Assembly and the Senate, limits packaging requirements to those needed for product safety, hygiene and logistics while excluding consumer acceptance on the basis of convenience.

“This shows that industry is willing to consider the GPP as the tool to drive forward sustainable packaging,” said Carroll. “We would like to see the same thing elsewhere, with bodies like the Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP) in the UK and the European Commission adopting the report. We hope that industry will press such bodies for this”

The support of industry giant Walmart in adopting the report findings as part of it packaging sustainability scorecard could prove enormously important, he added. That the world’s largest retailer, itself a member of GPP and the Consumer Goods Forum, said it would delay making any modifications to the scorecard until after the report’s publication is a positive and encouraging, said the Europen chief.

Jane Bickerstaffe, director of the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN) told FoodProductionDaily.com the report was a “very useful step forward”.

“Until now, there has been a piecemeal approach to sustainable packaging. This report is absolutely brilliant and sets a clear framework and holistic approach for the future,” she said.

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