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EUROPEN: EU framework ‘right’ for tackling packaging waste

By Joe Whitworth+

10-Mar-2014
Last updated on 10-Mar-2014 at 16:07 GMT

Increased recovery and recycling targets mooted in an EU review have been backed by EUROPEN, providing they look at existing waste management infrastructure, capacity in member states and disparate performances.

The Waste Framework Directive (WFD) and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD) are part of a wider European review.

EUROPEN (the European Organization for Packaging and the Environment) published data on the evolution of packaging waste rates (1998-2011), finding positive recycling rate growth but some gaps between newer and older member states.

64% of packaging placed on the market in EU-27 was being recycled by the end of 2011, largely exceeding the 55% minimum target set by the PPWD.

51% was recycled in the newer member states (EU-12), but the PPWD targets did not apply to these countries until 2012 or later.

PPWD is way forward

The PPWD remains the appropriate and effective legislative framework for driving recovery and recycling of packaging waste, according to Virginia Janssens, managing director, EUROPEN.

The focus needs to be on increasing and improved packaging waste collection, recovery and recycling while enabling industry to meet the national recycling and recovery targets and company sustainability targets,” she told FoodProductionDaily.com.

“We would like to see the review also focusing on implementing and enforcing existing EU waste legislation.

Before we start adding up new regulations and targets and introduce higher targets on the packaging and packaging waste directive, and we are not against this in principle, we need to make sure that the existing legislation is implemented and enforced as there are different performances in the member states and timelines.”

EC Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste covers all packaging waste regardless of material used.

Harmonise reporting rules

EUROPEN wants harmonisation of rules for calculating and reporting rates. They said changes could impact current rates, either down or up, depending on the existing calculations by member states.

Janssens said there should be minimum requirements in the PPWD for extended producer responsibility (EPR) compliance schemes.

“Binding minimum requirements would be helpful for the packaging supply chain to meet national recycling targets,” she said.

"Transparency in material cost, geographic scope – is it urban or rural, compliance scheme monitoring and packaging materials covered should be included.”

Minimum requirements

She said minimum requirements should be put in place for all schemes to ensure a level playing field between multiple schemes and along the value chain.

Janssens said there needs to be more of a focus on post-consumer packaging collection.

“Some countries meet recycling targets by collecting industrial and commercial packaging waste as it is easier and cheaper to collect while the cost of collecting household packaging waste is more expensive.”

EUROPEN supports the PPWD’s internal market principle as its sole legal base.

“PPWD guarantees free movement of packaging and packaged products. It is of key importance to the supply chain that what is legal in one country in the EU is legal in the other,” said Janssens.  

“The two pillars, improving environmental performance and protecting the movement of packaging and packaged goods, should remain the way it is but the PPWD needs to be updated in some areas such as EPR as the market has changed a lot since 1994, when the PPWD was first adopted.

“Packaging needs to be assessed as part of the product, you can’t take or measure its environmental performance in isolation of the product, it is made to protect and preserve the product and meets specific requirements for the product in a specific supply chain.

“To oversimplify these case by case complex supply chains by singling out packaging would be meaningless and would not likely achieve intended environmental progress.”

FoodDrinkEurope, the representative body for Europe’s food and drink manufacturers, said packaging is essential as it preserves safety and quality from production to consumption and prevents waste.

Franco Grilli, chair of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Working Group, said the free movement of packaged goods in the internal market is a fundamental principle of the EU and creates legal certainty for products, during the 21st Packaging Waste and Sustainability Forum in Brussels last week.

“In addition, Europe’s food and drink industry believes that the overarching goal of this revision should be to increase the recovery of used packaging in the most economically and environmentally efficient manner, regardless of the organisation of the system in place, in order to help meet national and producers’ obligations.”

FDF progress

Results from a Food and Drink Federation (FDF) waste survey showed that manufacturers sent 3% of food and packaging waste to in landfill in 2012, compared to 16.5% in 2006.

The report, published jointly with WRAP, reveals manufacturers prevented 250,000 tonnes of food from entering the waste stream by redistributing it to other uses, such as animal feed.

Andrew Kuyk, director of sustainability at FDF, said: “Tackling food waste is a key priority for our industry, both to make what we have go further but to also help conserve the natural resources on which future production depends.

“These latest findings highlight that FDF members are close to achieving our zero food and packaging waste target by ingraining good environmental practices to deliver a more resilient and resource efficient supply chain.” 

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